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Jury selection in Harvey Weinstein's rape trial enters second week

Since 2017, more than 80 women, including many famous actresses, have accused the producer of sexual misconduct dating back decades.

Harvey Weinstein walks away from the courtroom in New York City criminal court on 6 January 2020 in New York City. Picture: AFP

NEW YORK - Jury selection in the high-profile rape trial of Harvey Weinstein is expected to enter its second week Monday, as the judge and lawyers in the case choose a panel of 12 impartial New Yorkers to decide the former movie producer’s fate.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women, and faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault. His trial began 6 January and could last up to two months.

Weinstein, once one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, made his mark with critically acclaimed films such as The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love.

Since 2017, more than 80 women, including many famous actresses, have accused him of sexual misconduct dating back decades. Weinstein has denied the allegations, saying any sexual encounters he had were consensual.

The allegations helped fuel the #MeToo movement, in which women have gone public with misconduct allegations against powerful men in business and politics.

Jury selection in Weinstein’s case is in its first phase, with potential jurors being pre-screened for possible bias. A more intensive phase is expected to begin Thursday in which lawyers will ask more detailed questions about jurors’ backgrounds.

Out of 360 potential jurors summoned last week, 106 passed pre-screening, with many excused after saying they could not be impartial. Others were let go for health reasons or because serving in the trial would be a hardship.

Friday’s jury selection proceedings were punctuated by a protest, with about 100 women carrying pots and pans dancing across the street from the courthouse.

“The rapist is you. Patriarchy is our judge,” the women chanted, first in English and then in Spanish. The chants were heard in the 15th floor courtroom, prompting Weinstein’s lawyers to ask that all the potential jurors present be dismissed.

Justice James Burke denied the request, noting that he expected the protest would not be the last.

Burke last week refused to take himself off the case, after Weinstein’s defence team accused him of bias.

On 6 January, as the New York trial began, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced new sexual assault charges against Weinstein.

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