06 de julio de 2020
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Hispanic World

Weinstein case judge refuses to recuse self, denies having opinion on case

New York, Jan 9 (efe-epa).- The judge presiding in disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse trial on Thursday rejected a call by defense attorneys to recuse himself, saying that he has no preconceived "opinion" about the case, adding that earlier this week when he reprimanded Weinstein for using a cellphone in court he intended to "scare him" so that he would abide by a court order not to do so.

 Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein (C) arrives at court for the start of jury selection in his sexual assault trial at the New York State Supreme Court in New York. EFE/EPA/JASON SZENES/File

Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein (C) arrives at court for the start of jury selection in his sexual assault trial at the New York State Supreme Court in New York. EFE/EPA/JASON SZENES/File

New York, Jan 9 (efe-epa).- The judge presiding in disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse trial on Thursday rejected a call by defense attorneys to recuse himself, saying that he has no preconceived "opinion" about the case, adding that earlier this week when he reprimanded Weinstein for using a cellphone in court he intended to "scare him" so that he would abide by a court order not to do so.

"There's nothing prejudicial or inflammatory for scolding a recalcitrant defendant" for violating a court order on multiple occasions," Judge James Burke said on Thursday.

"All I meant to do was scare him enough for him to discontinue using his phone. The court does not know the verdict, the court has not made a call on what it might or might not be," he said.

"I do not in fact harbor an opinion on the case and I certainly don't know what the evidence is likely to be or perhaps likely to be received by the jury," he added.

"I have in no way prejudged this case. I am going to great lengths to afford your client a fair trial," he told the defense attorneys.

Weinstein once again came to the New York Supreme Court chambers early for the fourth day of the trial in which he is facing five counts of sexual crimes and a maximum sentence of life behind bars if convicted. The trial is currently in the jury selection phase.

Using a walker and with bags under his eyes, which gave him a tired appearance, Weinstein arrived in court and waited with his defense team headed by Donna Rotunno for the judge - who arrived 10 minutes late - to begin the day's session.

Judge Burke said that his comments to Weinstein on Wednesday were "hyperbolic," adding that "I certainly never actually meant that I was going to put your client in jail for life, nor did I mean, because I have not, that I have prejudged whether he is guilty or innocent of the charges."

Weinstein's defense team, in their recusal request, referred to an episode that occurred just before the start of the earlier day's session, when a bailiff spotted Weinstein violating the rules by using his cellphone.

"Is this really the way that you want to land up in jail for the rest of your life? By texting in violation of a court order? Is it?," Burke said, addressing the defendant.

Those comments, according to the defense motion, have "created a situation in which the Court's 'impartiality might reasonably be questioned,' in violation of New York State's Rules of Judicial Conduct."

The judge explained that in earlier court sessions prior to the start of the trial he had warned Weinstein's lawyers at least three times that their client was using a cellphone, thus failing to comply with established rules and being "defiant and challenging to court officers when asked to put away his phones," this after the bailiffs at the courtroom door had instructed everyone entering to turn off and put away their cellphones.

He also said that he decided to deny a request by Weinstein's lawyers to delay the trial during a "cooling-off period" due to the intense media attention being paid to the case, particularly in light of the new - and similar - charges filed against the producer in Los Angeles and he even said that reporters could be praised for the way they are conducting themselves, adding that the courtroom was "half empty" on Thursday.

"There is no time like the present to go forward," the judge said, referring to continuing with the trial. "All sides are ready."

Then, he called the jury pool members back into the courtroom to continue reviewing their suitability to serve on the jury, a task that will take all day and may continue until Jan. 22, when oral arguments by both the prosecution and the defense are scheduled to commence before a 12-person jury.

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