7 Feb 2020

Weinstein's lawyers poised to start defence case

1:28 pm on 7 February 2020

Warning: This story discusses graphic details of alleged rapes and sexual misconduct

Prosecutors in Harvey Weinstein's New York rape trial have wrapped up their case, clearing the way for the former producer's lawyers to begin calling their own witnesses.

Harvey Weinstein in court in New York on 5 June 2018.

Lawyers acting for Harvey Weinstein are preparing to call their witnesses as the film producer responds to rape and sexual assault charges. Photo: AFP / Pool / Getty Images

Weinstein's first two witnesses were expected to be film producer Paul Feldsher and director and producer Warren Leight. Both knew actress Annabella Sciorra, one of the six accusers who have testified for the prosecution.

Other potential defence witnesses include two experts: Elizabeth Loftus, an expert on human memory and a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine, and Deborah Davis, a psychology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Justice James Burke told jurors that the defence case is expected to take about three days.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to raping former aspiring actress Jessica Mann and to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi. Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

Weinstein, who produced films including The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love, has denied any nonconsensual sex. His trial is widely seen as a milestone in the #MeToo movement in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.

Yesterday's proceedings began with the cross-examination of Lauren Young, a model and actress who said Weinstein trapped her in a hotel bathroom and masturbated in front of her while groping her breasts in 2012. Damon Cheronis, one of Weinstein's lawyers, asked Young repeatedly about discrepancies between her testimony and earlier interviews she gave about the alleged incident.

Over the last two weeks, jurors have heard testimony from Young, Sciorra and four other women.

Young's claims are not part of the criminal charges. She is one of three women prosecutors called as evidence of Weinstein's intent.

Last week, Mann testified that Weinstein raped her in 2013 in the course of a years-long relationship and Haleyi said that he forced oral sex on her in his Manhattan home in 2006.

Former Actress Jessica Mann arrives for the trial of Harvey Weinstein at the Manhattan Criminal Court, on January 31, 2020  in New York City. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)

Former actress Amy Mann has accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her seven years ago. Photo: AFP

Sciorra testified that Weinstein violently raped her in her own home in 1993 or 1994. Though that allegation is too old to be charged as a separate crime, prosecutors hope it will show Weinstein is a repeat sexual predator, the charge that could put him in prison for life.

So far, Weinstein's defence has consisted of cross-examinations in which his lawyers have sought to undercut the women's testimony.

That has included highlighting friendly communications they had with Weinstein after the alleged assaults, especially in the case of Mann, who said she maintained a relationship with him for years. Defence lawyers have also sought to underscore any inconsistencies between the women's testimony and earlier statements they made to investigators.

Loftus and Davis co-authored a 2015 paper in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology titled "Remembering Disputed Sexual Encounters: A New Frontier for Witness Memory Research," in which they concluded that accusations of sexual assault often involve "honest disagreement in interpretation of consent between the parties" and that an "accuser may well falsely remember that she overtly said or did things that she only thought about".

The judge has barred the experts from testifying specifically about memories of sexual encounters, saying such testimony would not be based on generally accepted scientific research.

- Reuters

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