A juror in Ghislaine Maxwell’s criminal trial who might not have disclosed childhood sexual abuse during jury selection for the high-profile case will now be questioned publicly as Maxwell’s team seeks a retrial, court papers released on Thursday said.
One newly released document also includes the written questionnaire that Juror No 50 completed during the selection process. In response to the question “Have you or a friend ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault?” the juror marked the “no” box.
Maxwell was found guilty on 29 December of sex trafficking and other related counts for coordinating disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of minor girls, some as young as 14.
Epstein, a convicted sex offender whose social circle was a roster of powerful and global figures, was arrested in July 2019 for sex trafficking of teen girls. He killed himself about one month later in a Manhattan jail pending trial.
Controversy over Juror No 50, who has identified himself in media interviews as Scotty David, unfolded shortly after Maxwell’s trial. David told journalists that he was sexually abused in childhood. David alleged that he told other panelists about this abuse – helping them view things from a victim’s point of view.
Juror 50 will undergo questioning on 8 March, the papers said.
“Following trial, Juror 50 made several direct, unambiguous statements to multiple media outlets about his own experience that do not pertain to jury deliberations and that cast doubt on the accuracy of his responses during jury selection,” Judge Alison Nathan wrote in a decision released Thursday.
Nathan added: “Juror 50’s post-trial statements are ‘clear, strong, substantial and incontrovertible evidence that a specific, non-speculative impropriety’ – namely, a false statement during jury selection – has occurred.”
She said: “To be clear, the potential impropriety is not that someone with a history of sexual abuse may have served on the jury. Rather, it is the potential failure to respond truthfully to questions during the jury selection process that asked for that material information so that any potential bias could be explored.”
Nathan also said that she cannot make a decision on Maxwell’s request for a retrial solely based upon David’s statements in the press and so ruled that he be questioned in court.
“The court therefore orders that a hearing take place at which the court will question Juror 50 under oath,” Nathan wrote.
David’s statements about possible previous abuse spurred questions as then-prospective jurors filled out questionnaires during selection proceedings – which directly asked about sexual abuse.
David maintained that he did not recall the question on abuse but said he had responded to every question honestly. Following David’s interviews, prosecutors requested that Nathan investigate his statements; Maxwell’s lawyers swiftly asked for a hearing and new trial.
In their request for a new trial, which was also unsealed Thursday, with redactions, Maxwell’s lawyers said: “The sixth amendment to the United States constitution guarantees trial by jury. Fundamental to that guarantee is the promise that the jury will be comprised of twelve dispassionate individuals who will fairly and impartially decide, based on the evidence or lack of evidence and not on their personal predilections and biases, whether the government has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
They wrote: “Voir dire plays an essential role in this process, and it depends on potential jurors to truthfully answer material questions put to them by the court and the parties. That did not happen here. Juror No 50 did not truthfully respond to perhaps the most important question put to potential jurors about their personal experiences – a question that pertained directly to the core allegations against Ms Maxwell: whether they had been a victim of sexual assault or abuse.”
“Juror No 50’s false answer undermined voir dire, resulted in a jury that was not fair and impartial, and deprived Ms Maxwell of her constitutional right to trial by jury.”
In an email, when asked about Nathan’s decision, David’s attorney said: “No comment.”
Source: The Guardian