Ghislaine Maxwell has formally requested a retrial on her sex trafficking conviction after a juror revealed childhood sexual abuse during jury selection.
Maxwell, 60, was convicted in federal court in New York in late December of five counts, including sex trafficking a minor, for her role in Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuse of women and girls. She faces up to 65 years in prison, and her sentencing is set for June.
One juror, who identified himself as "Scotty David", told media outlets after the verdict that his experience as a survivor of abuse led him to believe the women who testified against Maxwell and that his disclosure influenced fellow jurors.
The 35-year-old claimed he was not asked about his sexual abuse history during the jury selection process. But prospective jurors were in fact asked multiple questions about their past experiences with sexual abuse and were warned their responses could be factored into determining their ability to be impartial.
The Telegraph understands from sources close to the case that he did not answer "yes" to the question.
Maxwell’s lawyers filed their motion 30 minutes before deadline on Wednesday night “under seal”, meaning it is shielded from the public. This may be because the motion refers not just to Scotty David, but to a second juror who has not been publicly identified.
An unnamed juror told The New York Times that they also shared their experience being sexually abused as a child during deliberations, which they said "appeared to help shape the jury's discussions."
“Given the fact that much of what the juror said has already been made public, it seems a bit unusual,” David Weinstein, a defence attorney and former federal prosecutor, told The Telegraph. “However, if they are making reference to other jurors’ information that is known to the defence and prosecution, but not to the general public, then that might be the basis for filing their motion under seal.”
The disgraced British socialite faces an uphill struggle. Her team must show both that the juror lied and that his "preconceived opinion may have improperly swayed the jury" to get a retrial. However, they cannot ask about what was discussed during jury deliberations, creating a Catch 22 situation.
Even though jurors may speak to the news media or write about their experiences, the Supreme Court has held that any jurors’ statements or testimony about the inner workings of deliberations cannot be used by lawyers challenging a verdict, or by a judge deciding whether to overturn it.
Maxwell could seek to rely on a precedent set by a similar case, heard in Nashville in 2015.
Two American football players at Vanderbilt University, Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, were charged of raping a fellow student on campus.
While a state jury convicted Vandenburg and Batey, the judge ordered a new trial after it came to light that the jury's foreman did not disclose that he was a victim of sexual assault.
While the juror in question did not discuss his personal experience during jury deliberations, Judge Monte Watkins wrote in his ruling declaring a mistrial that "actual bias" had "clearly been shown" in the case.