For 10 days, jurors in the Harvey Weinstein trial debated issues of consent, morality, the casting couch and power imbalances in Hollywood.
At the end of their deliberations on Monday, they reached a mixed verdict. They found the disgraced producer guilty of raping a woman known as Jane Doe #1, but acquitted him of a sexual battery in Jane Doe #3. They were locked in with charges involving two other women, one of which is Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom.
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When they were released from the case Tuesday afternoon, three jurors explained how they arrived at that result. Talking with Variety in court, they said that while they empathized with all of the women, it was sometimes difficult to determine what happened beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Everyone seemed very believable – it’s just hard to prove everything, with time and memory. It’s just their word,” said Jay, a mechanical supervisor who didn’t give his last name. “Nothing was black and white. Nothing was super clear.
Siebel Newsom testified that Weinstein raped her in 2005 when she was an up-and-coming actress and director. Several jurors said they were concerned that she exchanged dozens of emails with Weinstein after her alleged rape. In those emails, she sought meetings with Weinstein and asked for campaign contributions on behalf of her husband, who was the mayor of San Francisco at the time.
Michael, another juror, a 62-year-old who works in the banking industry, said he voted to convict Weinstein on Jane Doe #1 and #2. But he did vote to acquit Siebel Newsom of the charges.
“I was considering the situation while also looking at his subsequent actions,” he said. “He wanted access to Harvey Weinstein and it seemed like he wanted access to a lot of his assets as well… This raised some reasonable doubts in my mind.”
Jay was also disturbed by communications and meetings between Siebel Newsom and Weinstein: “It seemed like they just had an affair.”
Asked if there was anything the prosecution could have done differently to secure a conviction, Jay said, “Maybe make the emails go away.”
The jury ultimately voted 8-4 in favor of convicting Weinstein on the Siebel Newsom charge. Another juror, Arnold Esqueda, said the vote was split 6-6 earlier in the deliberations.
Some of the jurors found his testimony overly dramatic, said Esqueda, who works as a security guard for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Energy. She said she prompted everyone to read the transcript again, which allowed them to focus on her words and not her presentation.
“That changed a couple of people without the emotion,” Esqueda explained.
Some of the jurors viewed the allegations through the “casting couch” prism, picking up a defensive argument that the women had voluntarily engaged in “transactional” sex.
Michael said the testimony was like “pulling back the curtain on a section of the entertainment industry where flexible morals were a way of doing business.”
She argued that the “casting couch” has been a part of Hollywood for 100 years and transactional sex dates back to Biblical times.
“Now it’s, ‘If you want to have sex with me, you have to greenlight my career,'” she said. “’If you want to have sex with me, you have to push my books and my scripts. If you want to have sex with me, you’ll have to give me full access to you and all your resources.’ These are things that go on. Morally I don’t think it’s right… At the end of the day they’re making decisions that – ultimately, they’re trying to further a career.”
Michael believed that two of the witnesses to “previous bad deeds” – Natassia M. and Kelly S. – hurt the prosecution’s case because they appeared to admit that they were “playing games” with Weinstein in hopes of advancing their careers.
“If I was the prosecutor I wouldn’t have made them testify,” Michael said. “Those two pretty much proved the defense’s point… It’s a morally flexible industry. I’m sure all these women hated every second of what was going on, but that’s the way the industry is.”
However, the “casting couch” defense didn’t work on Jane Doe #1. She testified that she barely knew who Weinstein was before meeting him at the LA Italia Film Festival in February 2013, stating that she had only minimal contact with him after he he had raped her at the Mr. C Beverly Hills hotel.
The defense argued that Jane Doe #1 had simply made up the whole sexual assault and that neither she nor Weinstein had been in her hotel room that night. The jury did not believe that argument.
“I think the consensus was, their argument that he had never been there — we felt like he was,” Jay said. “It looked like it was probably there.”
All three jurors they spoke to Variety he suggested that the argument damaged the defense’s credibility. With a different approach, it appeared that the defense could have gotten a mistrial on these counts.
“I personally think they would have had a lot more to work with if they’d said it was there,” said Michael.
Jurors voted 10-2 in favor of Weinstein’s sexual assault conviction against Jane Doe No. 2, Lauren Young. Ultimately, they landed in a stalemate on that count. A juror revealed that the two resisters were influenced by the defense’s argument that Young’s dress had a button above the zipper, which made it difficult for Weinstein to undress her.
“I thought it was a dunk,” said Esqueda, who voted to condemn that allegation related to Young. She said others thought her dress wouldn’t fall off her shoulders. “If we could have shown that she got off her back, she could have had a solid case.”
Jurors said the deliberations were respectful and did not become controversial. Esqueda acknowledged that one juror was “stubborn” and initially voted not guilty on all charges. That juror was eventually persuaded to convict Jane Doe #1.
They said Governor Newsom and his policies were not discussed and were not a factor. Jurors also said Weinstein’s past conviction and the avalanche of charges against him did not come to light during the deliberations.
“Everyone realized the weight of this evidence,” said Michael. “The #MeToo movement raises many extremely important questions… Predators need to know that kind of behavior is wrong. He is criminal and will be prosecuted.”
Michael continued, saying that a main message of the process is that if a woman is trapped in such a situation, she should get to safety as quickly as possible. “Go to the police,” he said. “Report him. And for God’s sake, don’t continue doing business with this person.
As for the casting couch, Michael said, “It’s about time it stopped, it really is.”
“These people are basically getting what they deserve,” she said, referring to the predators who have been exposed by the #MeToo movement.
Michael added that it was difficult, however, for jurors to determine what happened many years later, with no video or audio of the incident and little to do other than speak the accuser.
“Just because someone is found not guilty, doesn’t mean they’re innocent,” he said. “It just means the facts haven’t been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
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