Will Ghislaine Maxwell Conviction Be Overturned? Defense Seeks Mistrial Over Juror

Ghislaine Maxwell has a "very high" chance of forcing a retrial of her sex trafficking case over a juror's comments to the media, a lawyer has told Newsweek.

In late December, the British socialite was convicted of grooming young girls for her former lover Jeffrey Epstein to abuse, but the case has been thrown into turmoil before the judge had a chance to sentence her.

A juror, identified only as Scotty David, has now revealed in interviews that he is a sexual abuse survivor—and Maxwell's attorneys claim his comments present "incontrovertible grounds for a new trial."

Prospective jurors were given a questionnaire in which they were required to disclose any past experience of sexual abuse.

Mark Stephens, of U.K. law firm Howard Kennedy, told Newsweek that Scotty David would have been removed from selection had the jury selection system operated as it should have.

He said: "I think the likelihood of a mistrial is very high. It does seem that the juror didn't answer accurately or there was a mistake.

"It is clear that there was an attempt in advance of the trial and the judge accepted that people who fell into that category would have difficulty in judging the case dispassionately and therefore they should be excluded as jurors.

"Somehow this guy got through. He would have been taken out. Both sides have jury consultants advising them and the jury questionnaires would have been devised in conjunction with the jury consultants, the lawyers and the judge."

He added: "This is obviously a question which would have disqualified that juror."

The judge in New York has scheduled a briefing on this issue from the defense on January 19, before further briefings in February.

The juror has been given a court-appointed attorney, at the request of the prosecution.

Stephens said: "What happens now, there will be an investigation. They will be pulling the juror's questionnaire to see how he answered—whether there was a human error in the reviewing of the questionnaire or whether there was an error in the juror not revealing the information that he should.

"If it was unfair to appoint them in the first place then the trial is probably unfair, particularly since they needed a unanimous verdict and, as a result of that, I think a mistrial is almost a racing certainty.

"From the reactions of the prosecutor, in fairness, I think she accepts that too."

Stephens said it would at some stage be made public whether the juror had misled the court in his questionnaire or whether there was some other error in the process.

Jury consultant Jill Huntley Taylor, chief executive of Taylor Trial Consulting, told Newsweek: "It's not disqualifying to be a victim of sexual abuse. A juror could be on a jury with that experience. They just need to be forthright when asked about it.

"The attorneys know what was in the questionnaire. So, they know whether that juror lied about that or not. In high-profile cases, it's not unusual for there to be some jurors who want to be on that trial and will intentionally hide their biases to get on the jury.

"In jury selection, if I'm on the Maxwell team I want to know if a juror has experience of sexual abuse. If someone reveals that they do, then I want to follow up and determine whether that juror is biased."

She added: "They would likely try to get that juror off. If a juror intentionally hides that then there is no ability for the team to follow up on the question."

A defense letter to the court, seen by Newsweek, reads: "Among other things, the Juror told reporters that he disclosed to the other members of the jury during deliberations that he was a victim of sexual abuse and further described his memory of those events.

"According to the Juror, his disclosure influenced the deliberations and convinced other members of the jury to convict Ms. Maxwell."

In a separate letter, the attorneys added: "The Supreme Court has held that to be entitled to a new trial, a party must first demonstrate that a juror failed to answer honestly a material question on voir dire, and then further show that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause."

Lisa Bloom, who represents a number of Epstein and Maxwell victims, wrote on Twitter: "IF he lied and IF the court finds it was material, the judge may order a new trial.

"My heart goes out to the 4 victims [who testified in Maxwell's trial], who will have to do it all again.

"And this story underscores how many people have been sexually abused. It's rampant. Epidemic.

"And because this juror was a victim, and was brave enough to tell his story in the deliberations room and stand with the other victims, a convicted sex trafficker may get a do-over.

"Just a punch in the gut to the 8 Jeffrey Epstein victims I represent."

Could Ghislaine Maxwell's Conviction Be Overturned?

If there is a mistrial, the guilty verdict will be overturned, Stephens told Newsweek.

He said: "If there is a mistrial, her conviction will have been overturned. Rather than being a convicted criminal she will go back to being a prisoner on remand as she was before. She is not going to get out, she will just go back to being in custody."

Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani, of West Coast Trial Lawyers, told the BBC that lying on a jury questionnaire could constitute perjury as well as "potential grounds for a mistrial."

He said: "This is why prosecutors cringe when jurors talk to the media after a guilty verdict: because jurors may say something that may overturn the conviction."

Other legal experts did not think the juror's comment would lead to a mistrial. Professor Bennett Gershman of Pace University Law School, a former New York prosecutor, told The Washington Post: "It probably won't result in the verdict being vacated because the evidence is very, very strong and this information does not seem to me to be central to the ability of the jurors to make an informed and impartial fair verdict."

Update 01/06/22, 10:30 a.m. ET: This article was updated to add comments from Jill Huntley Taylor.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell
Jeffrey Epstein, pictured at Harvard University in 2004, and Ghislaine Maxwell at a symposium in New York City on September 20, 2013. Maxwell's lawyers are calling for a retrial in her sex trafficking case. Rick Friedman/Rick Friedman Photography/Corbis and Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images