Ghislaine Maxwell attorneys want potential jurors screened privately
Attorneys representing Ghislaine Maxwell, the alleged accomplice of deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, are expected to argue in court on Thursday that jurors for her case should be questioned privately to ensure she faces an “open-minded jury.”
Maxwell’s legal representation intends to make their argument in Manhattan federal court to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan on the grounds that added privacy is necessary amid a “tsunami” of public attention surrounding Maxwell’s case, according to ABC News.
“This case amplifies the likelihood that jurors will be more apprehensive and constrained to respond openly and honestly in open court within earshot of other jurors, members of the public, and the media,” Bobbi Sternheim, an attorney for Maxwell, said in a court filing last week.
Sternheim said that Maxwell’s negative publicity has caused her to be “demonized in the press,” ABC reported.
Meanwhile, prosecutors argue that there is “no persuasive reason” that should compel Nathan to move away from the “well-established practice” of jury selection.
“The Court should ask most questions in open court and ask sensitive questions, such as those that relate to sexual abuse and media exposure, at sidebar,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe argued, per ABC.
ABC reported that the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) along with a group of 17 media organizations also objected on Wednesday to making jury selection, known as voir dire, more secretive.
“Voir dire is a critical stage of criminal proceedings, and the public interest in favor of access to voir dire is correspondingly weighty,” RCFP attorney Katie Townsend wrote in a letter to Nathan, according to ABC.
The media groups also requested that a proposed jury questionnaire was also filed under seal last week be made available to the public.
But Maxwell’s lawyers said that those documents should be kept private “to avoid media coverage that may prejudice the jury selection process.”
In Manhattan federal court, jurors are typically questioned by a judge in open court.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to allegedly helping carry out a sex trafficking scheme by Epstein, who died in jail while awaiting trial in August 2019. Maxwell is accused of befriending the young girls whom Epstein abused in an effort to put them at ease.
The Hill has reached out to Maxwell’s legal representation as well as to prosecutors involved in the case for more information.
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