Reporter's Notebook: The Trial Of Harvey Weinstein

Feb 15, 2020
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

This story, which will be about three minutes, deals with sexual violence. The trial of former Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein has been going on in New York City for weeks. He's charged with the rape of a woman named Jessica Mann in a hotel in 2013 and of forcing oral sex on Miriam Haley in his own home in 2006. Both sides have presented their cases, and on Tuesday, the jury will begin its deliberations. NPR reporter Rose Friedman has been in court throughout the trial. She's kept us up to date, but we wanted to know what it's been like to be present in the courtroom.

ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: The days start cold and sometimes wet. It's February in New York, and if you want to get inside the courtroom, you show up early - 5:00 a.m., 4:00 a.m. But there's not much to do at that hour, so you bring a book and a blanket. You get to know your neighbors in line. You share snacks. You talk about the case. You go over the characters, the lawyers, the judge. At first, it's just pretrial motions, so you watch. You have theories about who the judge likes and who annoys him. You try to get a sense of what the arguments are going to be. And then inside, women began taking the stand.

Actress Annabella Sciorra described in plain, exacting detail what she says Weinstein did to her. She testified that after offering her a ride home from dinner, he returned to her apartment, held her down and raped her. Weinstein says this and all his encounters were consensual. Sciorra was the first of six women to testify. There were some similarities in the stories. Most of them said they'd met Weinstein through the entertainment industry. Most testified they were shocked when they say the situations turned into unwanted sexual encounters.

It's been hard to sit through. I don't think I'll ever forget Jessica Mann howling with pain and anger as she recounted another violent rape, this one in California, that drew blood on her legs. Many days I've left the courtroom in a rush. I don't realize until after my deadline how depleted I feel. Weinstein's lawyers say the women are lying, that they wanted to sleep with him for fun, for career advancement, for help in whatever way he was able to give it. There isn't much physical evidence in the case. So in a very basic way, the whole thing comes down to whether or not the jury believes these women, whether they believe that assault can happen in ongoing relationships, whether they find these specific people credible. How are they supposed to decide?

Weinstein's lawyers say that common sense dictates how you're supposed to act if you're assaulted. You fight, you run away, you tell someone, you cut the assailant out of your life. They hope the jury will see it that way. The prosecution has a harder job - ignore common sense. That's a myth, they tell the jury. It's not how most people really react. It can't be easy to be a juror in this case. They're not allowed to talk about it, so we don't know what they're thinking. Ignoring common sense is hard. Ignoring these women will be, too. Rose Friedman, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.