A Manhattan judge on Friday denied a request by Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer to interview potential jurors for the disgraced film mogul’s rape trial in private. In a heated courtroom exchange in Manhattan Supreme Court, defense lawyer Arthur Aidala argued potential jurors have been unable to speak freely during the screening process over the last week due to the media attention surrounding the case. The second phase of the jury selection process, which is slated to begin on Jan. 16, involves questioning individual jurors in an open courtroom. Earlier this week, Weinstein’s defense team’s request to have Judge James Burke recuse himself from the case was denied. Burke reprimanded the Hollywood titan for using his cellphone. Weinstein’s lawyers also asked to delay the trial after new charges against him were filed Monday in Los Angeles, another request that was rejected.
“Most people do not speak in front of international media,” Aidala told Burke. “In order for citizens to be as honest and forthright as possible, we ask that jury selection be done in private.” Burke denied the request after receiving the Friday motion, stating: “That’s against the law! I’ll read this, but I’m generally familiar with this form of the law... I’m disagreeing with you on virtually every level.” Weinstein is charged with two counts of predatory sex assault, two counts of rape, and one count of criminal sex act stemming from the allegations of two women. Opening statements in his trial are scheduled for Jan. 22.