Harvey Weinstein jury selection: bias, big data and ‘likes’

(Reuters) – When lawyers in the Harvey Weinstein rape trial question potential jurors on Thursday, they may already know who has used the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter or criticized victims of sexual harassment in a Facebook discussion. FILE PHOTO: Harvey Weinstein exits the New York Criminal Court after his sexual assault trial in Manhattan, New…


(Reuters) – When legal professionals within the Harvey Weinstein rape trial query doable jurors on Thursday, they will already know who has used the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter or criticized sufferers of sexual harassment in a Fb dialogue.

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FILE PHOTO: Harvey Weinstein exits the New York Legal Court docket after his sexual attack trial in Long island, New York, January 7. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The intersection of huge knowledge features and incidence of social media has remodeled the trade of jury analysis in the US, which as soon as supposed gleaning details about doable jurors from automotive bumper stickers or the illusion of a house.

Now, experts scour Fb, Twitter, Reddit and different social media platforms for hard-to-find feedback or “likes” in chat groups and even selfies of a juror dressed in a doubtlessly biased t-shirt.

“It is a entire new era of knowledge than we had up to now,” mentioned Jeffrey Frederick, the director of Jury Analysis Products and services on the Nationwide Criminal Analysis Team Inc.

The ways appear tailored for the Weinstein trial, which has grow to be a point of interest for #MeToo, the social media motion that has uncovered sexual misconduct via {powerful} males in trade, politics and leisure.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded no longer accountable to fees of assaulting two ladies. The once-powerful film manufacturer faces lifestyles in jail if convicted at the maximum severe rate, predatory sexual attack.

On Thursday, the criminal groups will start wondering doable jurors, a procedure referred to as voir dire. Greater than 100 folks handed an preliminary screening and the identities of lots of the ones folks were recognized publicly for days, bearing in mind intensive background analysis.

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Mark Geragos, a protection attorney, mentioned it’s nearly malpractice to forget about jurors’ on-line process, in particular in high-profile instances.

When Geragos was once representing Scott Peterson, who was once later discovered accountable of the 2002 homicide of his pregnant spouse Laci, it got here to gentle {that a} girl instructed an web chatroom she had duped each criminal groups to get at the California jury.

“You simply by no means know if any individual is telling the reality,” mentioned Geragos.

Weinstein’s attorney, Donna Rotunno, instructed Reuters just lately that her staff was once bearing in mind hiring a company to analyze jurors’ social media use to weed out bias.

The Long island District Lawyer’s place of business does no longer use jury experts and place of business spokesman Danny Frost declined to remark if prosecutors have been reviewing doable jurors’ social media.

Frederick’s company, which has no longer been concerned within the Weinstein case, creates massive databases of on-line process related to a case, drilling down into interactions that don’t seem in a consumer’s social media timeline. His company combs via Fb information articles a couple of specific case or matter, cataloging each and every remark, answer, percentage in addition to emojis or “likes,” within the hopes some have been posted via a possible juror.

“The social media facet will also be greatly useful in taking a look at folks’s political motives,” mentioned protection lawyer Michael Bachner. He mentioned Weinstein’s staff will most likely need to learn about a possible juror’s ties to girls’s reasons, with “#MeToo being the most obvious one.”

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Experts most effective use public knowledge and concentrate on the ones with extremist perspectives, mentioned Roy Futterman of consulting company DOAR.

“You’re searching for the worst juror,” he mentioned.

Julieanne Himelstein, a former federal prosecutor, mentioned the highest vetting instrument stays a attorney’s wondering of a possible juror within the court.

“That trumps all of the subtle intelligence amassing any person can do,” mentioned Himelstein.

However trial veterans mentioned that doable jurors are reluctant to confess unpopular viewpoints all the way through voir dire, reminiscent of skepticism about place of work sexual harassment.

Throughout wondering in a tribulation involving a drug corporate, advisor Christina Marinakis recalled a possible juror who mentioned he didn’t have adverse emotions towards pharmaceutical firms.

“We discovered he had a weblog the place he was once simply going off on capitalism and Company The united states and pharmaceutical firms particularly,” mentioned Marinakis, the director of jury analysis for Litigation Insights. The juror was once brushed aside.

Marinakis mentioned the weblog was once written underneath a username, and most effective got here to gentle via digging throughout the juror’s social media for references to pseudonyms.

Attorneys can reject an infinite choice of doable jurors in the event that they display bias. Every aspect can most often use “peremptory” demanding situations to do away with as much as 3 doable jurors they consider might be unsympathetic, with out offering a reason why.

In a Canadian civil trial, jury consulting company Vijilent came upon {that a} doable juror who seemed to be a stay-at-home mother and not using a historical past of social activism, if truth be told were arrested thrice for civil disobedience whilst selling the reasons of indigenous folks.

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“Until you were given into her social media, you wouldn’t have recognized that knowledge,” mentioned Vijilent founder Rosanna Garcia.

Reporting via Tom Hals; further reporting via Brendan Pierson and Gabriella Borter in New York; Modifying via Noeleen Walder and Rosalba O’Brien

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