Prospective jurors come face to face with Ghislaine Maxwell for the first time as they are quizzed about the British socialite, Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate during jury selection for her sex trafficking trial
Prospective jurors in the Ghislaine Maxwell case were quizzed about their knowledge of the British socialite, billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and even Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago during jury selection for her upcoming sex trafficking trial Tuesday.
Maxwell, 59, appeared in federal court in New York as Judge Alison Nathan questioned dozens of potential members of the jury who will decide her fate later this month.
This latest phase of jury selection is known as 'voir dire,' during which about 230 prospective jurors are whittled down to a pool of 50-60 as they are screened for partiality.
Once that is completed, the prosecution and defense will be able to strike 10 jurors, to narrow down the 12 jurors as well as six alternates that will hear the case.
The selection process won't be finalized until November 29, when opening statements will begin. The trial is expected to stretch to mid-January.
On Tuesday each prospective juror sat alone in a jury box for 10 to 15 minutes while Judge Nathan posed questions from about 10 feet away. Hundreds were previously dismissed after filling out a written questionnaire, according to AP.
At one point they were asked if they had a 'specific familiarity' with Donald Trump's Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago, which was known as the 'Winter White House' when he was president.
The inclusion of the question suggests that prosecutors plan to mention it during Maxwell's trial as a venue for allegedly recruiting and trafficking underage girls for Epstein.
Of note in today's proceedings was the presence of Renato Stabile, jury consultant for Harvey Weinstein, who has apparently been hired by Maxwell's team.
Stabile, who advised the disgraced film producer on how to pick a jury, was seen flipping through binders of jury profiles as he sat next to Maxwell's lawyers.
Wearing a black suit, Maxwell hugged her lawyers when she entered the courtroom and briefly sketched a courtroom artist who was drawing her.
During the hearing each juror was given a list of witnesses, companies, and locations and asked if they had any 'specific familiarity.'
While they were supposed to only say the letter corresponding to each entry, four jurors blurted out 'Mar-a-Lago' as a place they recognized from the news - none had a personal connection.
Epstein and former President Trump had known each other for years until they reportedly fell out over a property dispute.
The two could also be seen in a 1992 video shot at Mar-a-Lago while a group of cheerleaders dance in front of them as Epstein doubles over in laughter.
At one point in the video Maxwell can be seen walking in the background.
During the Tuesday morning session of voir dire, some 14 jurors were cleared to be considered as members of the final panel.
They were asked if they had any biases against law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and whether they had prejudice against people who lived 'luxurious lifestyles' - a question insisted upon by the defense.
A 72-year-old white male juror laughed at this question and said that wealthy people had 'provided my livelihood' while working for a high-end catering company that worked at events at the UN, the Met Opera, and the Met Museum.
A 24-year-old white woman said that a friend of hers was 'coerced' into having a relationship with her professor and 'blackmailed into it'.
The friend was supposedly 'paid off by the school to keep her quiet'. Even though the juror was the one to report the incident, she insisted she could still give Maxwell a fair trial.
Both were allowed into the final jury pool from which the panel of 12 will be chosen.
A black woman in her 40s was excused from serving on the case because she said that the reports she had seen about Maxwell had made her feel 'very uncomfortable'.
A 28-year-old woman who works as a special education teacher said she thought Epstein was 'famous, I think he's an actor'.
She was allowed to proceed to the final pool.
Last month Maxwell's lawyers won their first battle after successfully convincing the judge to keep the proposed juror questionnaire under seal to avoid tainting the jury pool.
Federal prosecutors had agreed to the request, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe writing in a two-page memo: 'The defense respectfully requests that the joint proposed juror questionnaire and joint proposed voir dire be filed under seal to avoid media coverage that may prejudice the jury selection.
'The government consents to the defense's request.'
On Monday Maxwell appeared to have had a jailhouse makeover ahead of her sex trafficking trial later this month.
The British socialite appeared much more glamorous in court on Monday, having styled her straggly hair into a shoulder-length bob with her graying roots touched up and dyed black.
Maxwell's hair, which had grown out from her signature pixie cut, looked recently washed and noticeably more lustrous than her last appearance last week.
She also ditched her prison issued blue top and pants for street clothes - a black turtleneck and gray slacks.
She appeared healthier and more relaxed than she had in months as she attended a pretrial hearing in which the judge spoke about how she will proceed with jury selection tomorrow, at federal court in New York.
Maxwell's newfound confidence was apparent at the end of the hour-long hearing when she stood face to face with her lawyer Jeff Pagliuca.
Pagliuca smoothed a few loose strands of Maxwell's hair from her face in an affectionate moment between the two.
Maxwell's makeover came the day before the selection of the final jurors who will decide her fate on allegations she trafficked and procured underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein.
The process will begin Tuesday and during today's hearing Judge Alison Nathan said that the pool of 600 people had already been whittled down to 231 after they answered a questionnaire about their availability.
Given that Maxwell is incarcerated in the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, her makeover was likely done by herself.
The Bureau of Prisons sells hair dye in the commissary to inmates for $9.50 and comes in a range of colors, including black.
Maxwell talked about cutting her own hair in prison in her first-ever jailhouse interview over the weekend.
Maxwell said her guards were 'impressed when I cut my hair with nail clippers and it was somewhat straight'.
She said: 'I only had a 3in by 5in mirror. They rewarded me with paper scissors and suggested I might want to open a salon'.
Prospective jurors have already answered a questionnaire including questions like whether or not they were biased against people with 'luxurious lifestyles' and if they were aware of the MeToo movement.
During the hearing, Judge Nathan said she hoped that this week she could get down to a pool of 50-60 potential jurors by questioning them individually in court over three days .
From there the final 12 who will serve on the jury for the trial, which is expected to last six weeks, will be chosen.
Judge Nathan said that she would rule on a number of outstanding issues before or during a final pretrial conference on November 23rd.
That includes whether the third of four accusers, who is thought to be British, will be allowed to give evidence.
Judge Nathan said that the jury will sit between Christmas and New Year, though they would be off the 23rd and 24th of December, and the 30th and 31st of the month.
Among the other issues that came up was a subpoena to a victim that Maxwell's lawyers requested on Sunday evening.
Judge Nathan said that the subpoena should be issued to the woman and that prosecutors could oppose it later.
Maxwell's lawyer Christian Everdell said there was an issue with some 'border crossing records' and the prosecution said they would work to resolve it.
Prosecutor Maurene Comey said that another issue still to be resolved was the 'authentication of birth certificates,' but she did not specify which accuser it related to.
Maxwell, 59, denies eight counts that could see her jailed for 80 years if she is found guilty.
Maxwell spoke to The Mail on Sunday for the first time about her 'living hell' behind bars – claiming that she has been assaulted and abused by prison guards, purposely deprived of sleep and given rotting food to eat.
In a world exclusive, Maxwell, who had her $28million (£21M) bail application denied for the fourth time last week, also claims negative media coverage while she has been in custody and the deliberate withholding of evidence have made it 'impossible' for her to receive a fair trial.
Speaking from her 10ft by 12ft prison cell inside New York's notorious Metropolitan Detention Center, where she has spent the past 16 months in solitary confinement, Maxwell said: 'I have been assaulted and abused for almost a year and a half.
'I have not had a nutritious meal in all that time. I haven't slept without lights on – fluorescent lights that have damaged my eyes – or been allowed to sleep without constant interruptions.
'I am weak, I am frail. I have no stamina. I am tired. I don't even have shoes which fit properly. They feed me rotten food. One apple had maggots in it. I have not been allowed to exercise.'
Maxwell faces the rest of her life behind bars if convicted of abusing and procuring young girls for billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein – charges that she vehemently denies.
Her lawyers are expected to argue she is being punished by proxy for Epstein's heinous crimes because, as one source close to the case maintains, 'someone has to pay for what he did'.
Maxwell has told friends: 'I fear it will be impossible to get a fair trial. I have tremendous fear that overwhelmingly negative media stories will poison my jury pool and affect the outcome of my trial despite the evidence that will demonstrate everything the jurors thought they knew isn't true.
'I look forward to finally having my day in court to prove I played no part in Epstein's crimes.' link