LONDON (AP) — A juror in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex abuse trial made an “honest mistake” when he failed to disclose his own history as a victim of abuse and the error didn’t prevent her from receiving a fair trial, prosecutors said in a court filing.
U.S. federal prosecutors made the argument in a document filed late Tuesday opposing Maxwell’s motion for a new trial. Maxwell, 60, was convicted in December of helping the late financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse multiple teenage girls from 1994 to 2004.
The filing comes a week after U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan questioned the juror extensively about why he failed to disclose the abuse he suffered as a child when he filled out a questionnaire during the jury selection process. The juror, known as Juror 50, later gave a series of media interviews in which he revealed the abuse and how it influenced his deliberations.
In response to Nathan’s questions, the juror said he made the mistake because he was rushed and didn’t carefully read some of the questions. He also said that his experiences didn’t prevent him from being fair and impartial, and therefore there is no reason for a new trial, the prosecutors said.
“It is crystal clear that the defendant received a fair trial,” the prosecutors wrote. “Juror 50’s sworn testimony at the hearing made evident that he did not deliberately lie in completing the questionnaire, but that he instead made an honest mistake.”
Maxwell’s lawyers disagreed with this assertion in their own filing supporting the call for a new trial.
The juror falsely answered three questions related to the abuse he suffered, which prevented Maxwell’s lawyers from questioning him about his experiences during the jury selection process, her attorneys said. Testimony during the post-trial hearing showed that as a result of his experiences the juror saw himself as an advocate for the victims, not “a neutral arbiter of the facts,” Maxwell’s lawyers said.
They also questioned the credibility of the juror’s testimony that he hadn’t lied to get on the jury. The juror “reveled in the attention” he received as a member of the jury and “was looking to soak up his 15 minutes of fame” by talking to the media, the lawyers said.
“Excusing Juror 50’s false answers because he believes his concealed history of sexual abuse did not affect his ability to serve as a fair and impartial juror does not satisfy the appearance of justice,” Maxwell’s lawyers argued. “Only a new trial would.”
Lawyers for both sides had until Tuesday to submit their arguments on the motion for a new trial. Maxwell’s sentencing is scheduled for June.
Earlier this month, the juror testified about his answers on the questionnaire after Nathan granted him immunity from prosecution.
He repeatedly expressed regret as the judge asked him dozens of questions about why he didn’t reveal repeated incidents of sexual abuse by two people at age 9 and 10.
“This is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in my life,” he told the judge.
“I flew through the questions,” he said, adding that he was “super distracted” by nearby conversations and the movements of other prospective jurors who dropped off their completed questionnaires just a few feet from him.
All potential jurors in the case had been asked to fill out a screening form in early November that asked: “Have you or a friend or family member ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault? (This includes actual or attempted sexual assault or other unwanted sexual advance, including by a stranger, acquaintance, supervisor, teacher, or family member.)”
The juror checked “No.” The juror said in the interviews he didn’t remember being asked that question, which was No. 48 on the form.
Maxwell was convicted of sex trafficking and other charges after a monthlong trial that featured testimony from four women who said she played a role in setting them up for abuse by Epstein.
Epstein, 66, killed himself in August 2019 as he awaited trial at a federal jail in New York on related sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell says she’s innocent.