Last week a jury convicted Ghislaine Maxwell on five counts of sex trafficking which should have been enough to send her to prison for an extended stay. However, since the verdict was announced there have been some complications. One of the jurors revealed to several news outlets that he’d been a victim of sexual assault and that he discussed his experiences with the jury:
Scotty David, who wishes to be identified by his first and middle name, told The Independent in his first media interview that he believed all of the victims who testified against Ghislaine Maxwell in her sex-trafficking trial that took place in lower Manhattan over the past four weeks. All of the accusers corroborated each other and were backed up by other evidence, he said…
David knows that sometimes you can misremember small details of traumatic memories without ever doubting the core of the memory. He knows that because he is himself a survivor of sexual abuse.
“I know what happened when I was sexually abused. I remember the colour of the carpet, the walls. Some of it can be replayed like a video,” he said. He explained this to the jury.
Why does this matter? Because during jury selection all of the prospective jurors were given a questionnaire. One question asked if they or anyone in their family had a past experience of sexual abuse. Presumably anyone who answered yes to that question was excused by the defense. So the fact that Scotty David wound up on the jury could mean he didn’t answer accurately on the form and that inaccuracy may have had an impact on the outcome. The NY Post reports the defense is now asking for a new trial:
In a redacted letter to Manhattan federal court Judge Alison Nathan, defense attorneys said the juror’s interviews were an “issue of pressing importance” because he told a reporter that sharing his history of sexual abuse helped convince the panel to convict Maxwell.
Portions of the letter are redacted, with the defense appearing to say the juror’s disclosure “presents incontrovertible grounds for a new trial.”…
The juror who spoke to the media, Scotty David, told Reuters that he “flew through” the questionnaire and cannot remember being asked about personal experiences with sexual abuse. He could only say he would have answered honestly.
I’m not sure what the law says in this particular case but in some jurisdictions lying on a jury questionnaire can be treated as felony perjury. The prosecution, realizing this was a potentially serious problem, asked the judge to hold a hearing about the matter and suggested the juror in question be advised they might want to have their own legal counsel present at the hearing.
Meanwhile, the NY Times reported this afternoon that a second juror has come forward saying they also had experienced sexual assault. This second juror also discussed the prior assault during deliberations:
Separately, in an interview with The New York Times, a second juror described having been sexually abused as a child and said that they, too, had discussed the experience during deliberations.
The revelation, this juror said, appeared to help shape the jury’s discussions. The juror requested anonymity.
Of course it’s possible the defense made a mistake or that the language of the questionnaire wasn’t clear. I’m sure the judge will want to look at all of that. But at the moment it appears that at least two jurors may have misrepresented their own history on the jury questionnaire and, if that’s determined to be the case, the judge may feel obligated to allow a new trial.