Attorneys for recently convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell have asked the court for a new trial following comments to the media from two members of the jury acknowledging they shared their own experiences of sexual abuse during deliberations.
Maxwell, a British socialite and longtime companion of deceased convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was found guilty on Dec. 29 on five counts, including conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and sex trafficking of an individual under 18 years old.
But post-trial comments made by two jurors have raised eyebrows in legal circles and have given Maxwell, who faces up to 65 years in prison for her crimes, renewed hope.
One of the jurors, referred to by only his first and middle name, Scotty David, recounted in media interviews this week that he was able to assuage some of the other jurors’ concerns over the credibility of key witnesses by sharing his own experiences.
The man reportedly told his fellow jurors that he was able to recall the most important elements of what happened to him but not every single detail. That testimony, he said, swayed some of the other jurors.
“I know what happened when I was sexually abused. I remember the color of the carpet, the walls. Some of it can be replayed like a video,” he told the Independent, adding, “But I can’t remember all the details, there are some things that run together.”
“When I shared that, they were able to sort of come around on, they were able to come around on the memory aspect of the sexual abuse,” the 35-year-old Manhattan resident said in conversation with Reuters.
Another juror, who requested anonymity, told the New York Times of abuse experienced as a child and discussed that experience with fellow jurors during deliberations. That juror also suggested that those experiences appeared to shape the jury’s discussions.
The separate admissions have raised concerns over the court’s jury selection process and sparked calls for a retrial.
According to CNN, in a letter sent Wednesday, Maxwell’s defense attorneys wrote that Scotty David’s statements “merit attention by the court” and requested that a juror investigation be conducted “exclusively under the supervision of the Court.”
“The Court can and should order a new trial without any evidentiary hearing,” Maxwell’s attorneys added in the letter, according to the Washington Post.
Court documents reportedly show that jury candidates were asked during the selection process if they or any family members had been victims of sexual abuse. But Scotty David told Reuters that he “flew through” the questionnaire and did not remember the question, though he said he would have answered honestly if he had been asked.
Legal analysts, however, say it’s unlikely that he would have been selected if he had answered affirmatively to the question.
Matthew Barhoma, a criminal appeals lawyer in Los Angeles, told Insider that “if the defense knew about it, they would’ve dismissed him.”
He added, “Jurors will lie to get on a jury for two reasons: if the case is notorious, and if they have been victims of the same allegations and they want to convict.”
Barhoma told the Washington Post, “If I was her legal team, I would pounce. I would be all over this issue because it is a major loophole in her conviction.”
“This is the absolute last thing you want when you get a guilty verdict,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani added in conversation with Insider. “You don’t want the jurors talking to the media. You don’t want them saying something that will result in a mistrial.”
“It’s an absolute disaster,” he continued. “This entire conviction may get tossed, and we may have to retry the case.”
Though not every expert believes the admission will automatically spell doom for the prosecution.
Bennett Gershman, a former prosecutor and Pace Law School professor, told the Post that “it probably won’t result in the verdict being vacated because the evidence is very, very strong and this information does not seem to me to be central to the ability of the jurors to make an informed and impartial fair verdict.”
It remains to be seen what lies ahead for Maxwell. U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan has reportedly asked Maxwell’s defense team for a motion for a new trial by Jan. 19. The government’s response will then be due Feb. 2 and the defense’s susbequent response one week later.