Ghislaine Maxwell’s legal team was poised on Wednesday to file detailed documents requesting a new trial following revelations that a juror may not have disclosed childhood sexual abuse during jury selection.
Maxwell, the daughter of the late British publishing baron Robert Maxwell, was convicted on 29 December of five counts for facilitating the late financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of girls, some as young as 14.
After last year’s trial, one panelist, juror No 50, said in an interview that he was a victim of childhood sexual abuse. This juror, Scotty David, reportedly said he told fellow jurors about his experience – and that this helped other panelists understand things from a victim’s point of view.
David’s statements about prior abuse spurred questions, given that potential jurors completed questionnaires during the selection process which included: “Have you or a friend or family member ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault?”
The questionnaire also asked: “Witnesses in this case may testify claiming sexual abuse or sexual assault. Would you have any difficulty assessing the credibility of a witness claiming sexual assault or abuse just like you would any other witness?”
David reportedly said that he did not recall the question about abuse but had answered every query honestly. Following David’s comments, prosecutors asked judge Alison Nathan to investigate his remarks.
“While the court instructed jurors that they were free to discuss their jury service with anyone of their choosing, some of the statements, as related in the media, merit attention by the court. In particular, the juror has described being a victim of sexual abuse,” prosecutors wrote in a 5 January letter.
“Assuming the accuracy of the reporting, the juror asserted that he ‘flew through’ the prospective juror questionnaire and does not recall being asked whether he had been a victim of sexual abuse, but stated that ‘he would have answered honestly’.
“Based on the foregoing, the government believes the court should conduct an inquiry,” they wrote to Nathan.
Maxwell’s legal team, in turn, said the juror’s published comments necessitated a retrial.
Epstein, who counted Prince Andrew and former US presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump among his many high-profile acquaintances, was arrested in July 2019 for sex trafficking girls as young as 14. He killed himself in a Manhattan jail about one month later, while awaiting trial.
Prince Andrew has faced increasing scrutiny over his relationship with Epstein and Maxwell following her high-profile trial. He is also being sued by Virginia Giuffre, who claims that Epstein and Maxwell forced her into sex with the royal in London at age 17. He has denied the allegations.
Despite his denials, fallout has been intense. Buckingham Palace said in a statement last week: “With the Queen’s approval and agreement, the Duke of York’s military affiliations and royal patronages have been returned to the Queen. The Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen.”