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Appeals judges question Weinstein’s conviction | Celebrity news

NEW YORK (AP) – A New York appeals court on Wednesday blasted Manhattan prosecutors for filling out Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial last year with what a judge called “incredibly damaging testimony” from women whose allegations were not among the criminal charges against him – a strategy that now has the potential to undermine the conviction of the disgraced movie mogul.

Members of a five-judge panel of the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals appeared outraged by Judge James Burke’s decision to allow witnesses and another ruling that allowed prosecutors to confront Weinstein with evidence of other reprehensible behavior if he had testified.

Several judges on the panel appeared open to the idea of ​​overturning Weinstein’s conviction and ordering a new trial. A decision is not expected until January.

Judge Sallie Manzanet-Daniels was particularly outspoken, saying prosecutors had piled up with “incredibly damaging” testimony from additional witnesses and that withholding details of Weinstein’s behavior – in some cases rude but not sexual – was tantamount to exaggerating.

“Let us ignite the hearts of jurors by telling them that he beat up his brother in a meeting. I just don’t see how there’s a balance there, ”Manzanet-Daniels said, challenging an attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who pleaded with judges to uphold Weinstein’s conviction.

Weinstein, 69, was convicted in February 2020 of an indictable sexual act for performing oral sex by force on a television and film production assistant in 2006 and of third degree rape for an attack on an aspiring actress in 2013. He was acquitted of first-degree rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault stemming from actress Annabella Sciorra’s allegations of rape in the mid-1990s.

The verdict marked a turning point in the #MeToo movement which was spawned by women who made allegations against Weinstein. He claims his innocence and maintains that all sexual activity was consensual.

Burke, the Manhattan judge who presided over Weinstein’s trial, allowed prosecutors to substantiate their case with the testimony of three women who alleged Weinstein also raped them but whose allegations did not lead to charges in the New York affair.

The rules for calling witnesses to testify about so-called “prior bad acts” vary from state to state and have been an issue in Bill Cosby’s successful appeal against his sexual assault conviction in Canada. Pennsylvania. New York’s rules, shaped by a landmark decision in a 1901 poisoning case, are among the most restrictive.

Weinstein’s lawyers argued that the additional testimony went beyond what is normally allowed – detailing motive, desirability, intent or a common pattern or plan – and essentially put the former boss of the studio on trial for crimes of which he was not accused and had not had the opportunity to defend himself against.

Burke’s decision allowing prosecutors to use horror stories from Weinstein’s past to attack his credibility helped prevent him from testifying, Weinstein’s attorney, Barry Kamins, told the appeal panel.

“The jury has been overwhelmed with such damaging and bad evidence,” Kamins said. “It was a trial of the character of Harvey Weinstein. People made him a bad person.

Kamins also challenged Burke’s refusal to fire a juror who wrote a novel involving predatory older men, as well as his decision to allow prosecutors to call an expert on victim behavior and rape myths while rejecting testimony on similar topics from defense experts.

Weinstein, sentenced to 23 years in New York state prison, did not attend pleadings on Wednesday. He was extradited to California earlier this year and is jailed there pending trial for assaulting five women in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills from 2004 to 2013.

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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak

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