Ghislaine Maxwell appeared to be in noticeably high spirits this week when she returned to court for jury selection for her sex-trafficking trial.
The 59-year-old socialite sported a black turtleneck sweater and gray slacks, since the law prohibits jurors from seeing criminal defendants in chains or prison garb. Maxwell shared laughs, hugs and close conversations with her attorneys, and turned in her seat on Thursday to blow a flurry of kisses to her sister Isabel, who sat in the gallery. Leah Saffian, a California attorney and friend of Maxwell, was also in the front row this week. She declined to comment. (According to one Daily Mail report, Saffian staged the photo of Maxwell at an In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles when the press began searching for her in earnest after Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in August 2019.)
It was a far cry from Maxwell’s demeanor at a pretrial hearing on Nov. 1, when she was escorted into the Manhattan federal courtroom in shackles and a navy jumpsuit, reportedly after having to climb into a prison van on her hands and knees.
The British heiress, who is facing charges for allegedly procuring underage girls for Epstein’s teen sex ring, told the court she hadn’t been offered any kind of plea deal. “I have not committed any crime,” she declared that day.
The interrogating of jurors for potential biases, known as the voir dire process of jury selection, began on Tuesday. By late morning on Thursday, Judge Alison Nathan had questioned more than 80 jurors about their lives, opinions, and knowledge of Maxwell and Epstein and ultimately settled on a pool of 58 people.
Of those prospects, 12 jurors and six alternates will be chosen on Nov. 29 ahead of opening arguments in the trial, which is expected to last six weeks.
Nathan excluded one middle-aged man on Thursday because he once met Epstein in person. The man told the court that, years ago, “someone who worked for me put together an investment vehicle... and Epstein was an investor.”
The man, who works as an arbitrator in financial matters, said news stories about Epstein’s crimes caught his eye in particular because he’d met the late sex offender.
Another prospective juror was given the boot after saying she wasn’t sure whether she could be completely impartial given what she’s heard about the case. The woman also said, “I believe the defendant shouldn’t be judged based on Mr. Epstein’s actions.”
On Wednesday, one woman said she heard allegations in the news about Epstein and Britain’s Prince Andrew but “didn’t know a lot about” Maxwell aside from that she was arrested in a rural location. The woman was excluded not long after mentioning Epstein’s suicide and saying she recognized a few names on a list of potential witnesses.
Prospective jurors reviewed a register of names, addresses, and entities that Nathan said could be mentioned at trial. Many people said they recognized former President Trump’s stomping ground Mar-a-Lago, where one accuser, Virginia Giuffre, claims Maxwell recruited her in the late 1990s and where another victim said Epstein brought her to meet Trump. (The woman did not accuse Trump of any misconduct.)
“I am not a conspiracy theorist and don’t buy into that, but I heard on the news that perhaps—I do think it’s odd that somebody of that high caliber was able to do that without anybody noticing,” the woman said of Epstein’s death.
A second woman was excluded after disclosing that a family member had been molested as a child, and that her daughter was involved with the anti-sexual violence group RAINN. Soon after the woman said this, Isabel Maxwell passed a note to Maxwell’s lawyers, who later asked for a sidebar with the judge that appears to have resulted in the woman’s disqualification.
“Is there anything about your daughter’s involvement on that issue that would interfere with your ability to be fair to both sides here?” Nathan asked the woman, who replied, “No. I think it’s an issue that women and men are passionate about, so—but I don’t see how that would interfere with me looking at evidence.”
Still, while Maxwell has reportedly told friends she believed the bad press about her and Epstein would taint the jury pool, various people said that they’d never heard of the former couple. Others said they heard of Epstein, his private island and jailhouse suicide but didn’t know much about Maxwell herself.
Meanwhile, Nathan said she expects to rule on evidence to exclude from trial at another hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
As The Daily Beast reported, Maxwell’s legal team has asked the court to prohibit testimony from one of four minor victims in the indictment, as well as evidence including the box for a sex toy and Epstein’s infamous rolodex of high-society contacts. The defense has argued Minor Victim 3 was of the age of consent in England when Maxwell allegedly groomed her for Epstein to abuse in 1994 and 1995.