Harvey Weinstein's leading defense lawyer was insulted by a prosecutor on Tuesday for writing a statement addressed directly to the jury before the trial should begin this morning.
The play, written by attorney Donna Rotunno and published in Newsweek on Sunday, pleaded with the jury to "do what they think is right, and was expected to do so as soon as they were asked to exercise their civil responsibility before a court fulfill".
"The mockery of Mr. Weinstein's Wanderer, the flattering sketches of his body in the courtroom, the myriad of critical statements and biased stories, and the convenient timing of the politically motivated charges in Los Angeles were all designed to determine his predetermined guilt," wrote Rotunno.
Six women testified against the film mogul in Manhattan, where he has five convictions for sexual assault and life in prison when convicted.
Before the trial began, Judge James Burke instructed the lawyers not to give media interviews. But Rotunno has already come under fire; She gave an interview to the New York Times podcast "The Daily" in the middle of the trial, although she initially said to Burke that she had been interviewed before the trial started and has not spoken to reporters since the trial started.
In this interview, reporter Megan Twohey Rotunno asked if she had ever been sexually assaulted.
"I haven't," said Rotunno. "Because I would never put myself in that position."
Rotunno's response was quickly criticized by survivors of sexual assault and their advocates, who said the lawyer’s testimony was synonymous with the victim’s guilt. Under the hashtag #WhereIPutMyself, sexual assault survivors began to share the attitudes in which they were attacked in direct response to Rotunno's comments.
Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said Rotunnos Newsweek was "100% inappropriate behavior". It borders on manipulations by the jury. "
"There is no way that the sanctity and purity of a lawsuit can ever exist and continue if each party is simply allowed to publicly say something they cannot … say in court," said Illuzzi.
The prosecutor asked Judge Burke to take Weinstein into custody and claimed that he had something to do with the op-ed.
"There is no way that Ms. Rotunno would do so without the request and encouragement … of the accused," said Illuzzi.
Rotunno called the request to take Weinstein into custody "inappropriate" and said it was "a small piece of a major media attack on Mr. Weinstein".
Although the specter of dozens of women who accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct emerged in the process from the start, the producer's jury was selected specifically for their alleged ability to ignore media coverage and based the case only on prior Court to hear evidence.
When Judge Burke spoke to Rotunno's co-counsel Damon Cheronis, he said, "You don't think it is easy to approach the first person jury?"
Rotunno defended the statement, saying it was merely a comment on the criminal justice system's mistakes.
Burke emphatically prohibited both sides from speaking to reporters until a verdict was reached and warned the defenders of the "tentacles" of their "PR juggernaut".