Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Begins With Potential Jurors Asked About Sex Crimes, Knowledge of Case

The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell is about to begin, with the jury selection process currently underway.

Maxwell is accused of recruiting teenage girls for her associate Jeffrey Epstein between 1994 and 2004. Judge Alison J. Nathan told 132 prospective jurors not to research or discuss the case to ensure a fair trial. The jury will eventually dwindle to 12 jurors with six alternates out of a possible 750 jury pool, with it expected to last around six weeks.

The 132 jurors on November 4 filled out questionnaires and were subsequently sent home. This process will continue for the next three days. Nobody involved in the case, including Maxwell and her lawyers, was present while the questionnaire was filled out.

As for the questionnaire itself, it consists of 51 questions and primarily focuses on the personal histories of the possible jurors. It also asked if they had posted an opinion on the case, Maxwell, or Epstein online and if they have previously been involved in organizations involving sexual harassment or trafficking.

Opening statements in the case are expected to begin on November 29. Epstein was found dead in his Manhatten jail cell in August 2019, with his death being ruled a suicide. Maxwell has been in a federal jail since July 2020 and denies the allegations.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Metropolitan Detention Center
Ghislaine Maxwell is currently being held at an undisclosed jail in Brooklyn. She was previously held at the Metropolitan Detention Center, seen here in July 14, 2020. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Although jurors will not be sequestered, their privacy will be ensured because they will be referenced by numbers and will be transported to and from the trial each day, Nathan said.

"Jury trials are part of the bedrock of American democracy," she told them.

Oral questioning of jurors begins mid-month.

Individuals were also asked to say what they'd heard about the case and whether it had caused them to form opinions about it.

"There is nothing wrong with having heard something about this case," the questionnaire stated in bold print before prospective jurors were questioned about whether and how they might have heard anything about Maxwell and whether they'd already formed an opinion about her guilt or innocence.

The questionnaire also asked whether the sexually suggestive or sexually explicit conduct that will emerge at trial might make it difficult for a prospective juror to be fair and impartial.

Maxwell's lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, resumed a request Wednesday that her client be released on $28.5 million bail, saying that deplorable jail conditions and harsh treatment of Maxwell have made it difficult for her to prepare for trial.

Her bail request, already rejected three times by the judge, came in a letter in which she claimed Maxwell has been touched in a sexually inappropriate manner by corrections officers on multiple occasions.

In an email response to a question about Maxwell's treatment, Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesperson Randilee Giamusso wrote that the bureau declines to comment on conditions of confinement for any particular inmate.

However, Giamusso added, the bureau "takes allegations of staff misconduct seriously and consistent with national policy, refers all allegations for investigation, if warranted. Incidents of potential criminal activity or misconduct inside BOP facilities are thoroughly investigated for potential administrative discipline or criminal prosecution."

Judge Alison Nathan
Judge Alison Nathan will oversee the Ghislaine Maxwell trial. She is depicted here in a courtroom sketch from November 1. AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams