Judge Denies Ghislaine Maxwell's Lawyers Request to Block Public, Media From Jury Selection

A judge on Thursday denied Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers request that members of the media and public be barred from viewing her jury selection proceedings next month, the Associated Press reported. Maxwell is scheduled to go on trial in New York City for allegedly helping Jeffrey Epstein recruit teenage girls who he sexually abused.

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan ruled that two pool reporters would be allowed inside the courtroom during the selection proceedings, while the rest of the press and public will be able to view the process via video from an overflow courtroom and a courthouse press room. Nathan said that in making the decision, she took the public's right to view the trial and the COVID-19 pandemic into account.

"We're all aware that there's been intense media and public interest in this case. These procedures will ensure the First Amendment rights to public access as is necessary and required by law," Nathan said during a pretrial conference call.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and more than a dozen news organizations wrote to Nathan Wednesday decrying the request from Maxwell's lawyers to keep jury selection private, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Ghislaine Maxwell Jury Selection
A judge on October 21 rejected British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell's bid to block the public and news media from jury selection in her New York City trial on charges she recruited teenage girls for financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse. Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Maxwell, during a news conference in New York on July 2, 2020. John Minchillo/AP Photo

Nathan also denied a defense request to prevent the public from seeing the blank questionnaire that will be given to about 600 people who will be summoned as prospective jurors in the high-profile case.

The selection of 12 primary jurors and six alternates is scheduled to begin November 4, with opening statements set for November 29. In selecting primary jurors, the defense will have 10 peremptory challenges and the prosecution will have six, Nathan said. For alternates, each side will get three challenges.

Maxwell's lawyers argued for questioning prospective jurors behind closed doors because they may be asked to divulge sensitive information, such as if they have been sexually abused. Nathan said she would make adjustments on a case-by-case basis to "ensure juror candor and project juror privacy."

Maxwell's lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said letting the public see the blank version of the questionnaire, which is used to screen the jury pool for biases, hardships, personal connections and awareness of the case, will lead to people lying their way into the jury process. She equated it to a "take-home exam" in which jurors could fill in answers they think will best position them to be selected.

Nathan, who will conduct one-on-one follow-up questioning November 16-19 with prospective jurors who survive the questionnaire phase, responded: "If a juror is going to lie and be dishonest, we will smoke that out. And the fact of this questionnaire being publicly documented is not going to increase or decrease any such likelihood."

Maxwell, whose father was a British newspaper baron, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she recruited teenage girls from 1994 to 2004 for Epstein to sexually abuse during encounters that sometimes were described as sexualized massages. A revised indictment filed in March included allegations she groomed a 14-year-old girl to recruit other young females in return for cash.

Epstein killed himself at a Manhattan federal lockup in August 2019, a month after his arrest on sex trafficking charges.

Maxwell, 59, joined the conference call Thursday from an empty room at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where she has been held since her July 2020 arrest. She didn't say much, except to complain about the call's wonky connection and to assure the judge she was still on the line when another communications mishap occurred.

Upcoming Trial for Ghislaine Maxwell
Ghislaine Maxwell is scheduled to go on trial in New York City for allegedly helping Jeffrey Epstein recruit teenage girls who he sexually abused. Maxwell attends the ETM 2014 Children's Benefit Gala at Capitale on May 6, 2014 in New York City. Paul Zimmerman/WireImage