Power on Trial


One of the most anticipated trials this year is underway. Harvey Weinstein, the once acclaimed Hollywood power broker, is on trial for rape charges filed in 2017 over the alleged assault of two women, one in 2006 and another in 2013. Weinstein is now being charged with several additional accounts of sexual abuse, including predatory sexual assault, which, if convicted, could lead to lifetime imprisonment. In late 2017, The New York Times published an expository article detailing Weinstein’s sexual harassment and rape of at least 8 women over the past few decades. Following this, over 80 more women have come forward with their own stories of sexual assault by Weinstein. However, the statute of limitations has expired on a number of these, discrediting the stories of countless women who vulnerably shared their experiences. This groundbreaking story lead to the worldwide social media hashtag #MeToo, empowering individuals to share their personal experiences of sexual harassment, and propelling the “Time’s Up” movement, a campaign started by a number of actresses to fight sexual assault in the workplace.

The controversy surrounding Weinstein’s trial is not simply due to his influence in Hollywood, but the imbalanced nature of his jury. Half of the 12 selected jurors are white men, while only five are women and one is a black man. Weinstein’s lawyers are determined to eliminate any jurors that may have sympathy for his victims: women. To dismiss one of the young female jurors, Weinstein’s lawyers attempted to discredit her judgement, claiming that she “wasn’t even alive when these events took place.” “Dating was different back then,” argued his lawyer, which many saw as highly inappropriate, considering the trial to be of several charges of rape and sexual abuse. Weinstein’s trial has been delayed for three years due to two legal teams quitting on him, with him finally going to court this year on his third team. His defense is notable for Donna Rottuna, a Chicago litigator that is well-known for defending men accused of sexual assault.When asked if she has ever been sexually assaulted, Rottuna told the Daily Podcast “I have not because I would never put myself in that position,” claiming she made the “right” choices from college age onward.

Weinstein was seen unsteadily hobbling to court with a walker, looking worse-for-wear following his recent back surgery after an August car crash. His lawyers seemed to use Mr. Weinstein’s appearance to their advantage, asking jurors if they believed a man who looked as frail as Weinstein could have raped several women. The prosecutors began the  testimony with Anabella Sciorra, who was brought to tears discussing the night of her alleged rape. Six more women will testify following Mrs. Sciorra in order to establish a violent and dominating pattern of behavior. Regardless of what happens in New York, Weinstein will be involved in litigation for years to come; just over three hours after the trial first convened, prosecutors in Los Angeles unveiled new charges against Weinstein. If convicted, he could face up to 28 years in prison in addition to life sentence. Still, the accusations against him and resulting movements have already had a profound impact around the world.