Jury in Ghislaine Maxwell trial asks to review expert testimony

Jury deliberations in Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial could run through the New Year’s holidays, US judge warns.

Ghislaine Maxwell sits in court during jury deliberations in her trial in New York
British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to six counts of sex trafficking and other crimes in a New York court [Jane Rosenberg/Reuters]

Jurors in the United States have asked for transcripts of the testimony of five witnesses at the sex crimes trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, as the judge suggested they work through the New Year’s holidays if needed.

Maxwell, 60, is accused of recruiting and grooming teenage girls to have sexual encounters with the late financier Jeffrey Epstein between 1994 and 2004.

The jury requested clarification from the judge on Wednesday regarding their schedule for deliberating for the remainder of this week.

Judge Alison Nathan told them they should convene every day until a verdict is reached – including New Year’s Day on Saturday, as well as on Sunday – unless they have “unmovable commitments”.

The question about holidays, and requests to review testimony, were the latest signs that the jury was not near a verdict as it began its fifth full day of deliberations.

Judge Nathan on Tuesday warned of an increasing risk of a mistrial due to the rapid spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in New York. She cited fears of the virus spreading among jurors and trial participants, which could cause a “substantial delay” to proceedings.

Across a three-week trial, jurors heard from four women who said Maxwell was central to facilitating their abuse by Epstein, Maxwell’s former boyfriend and employer.

Her lawyers have argued she is being scapegoated for Epstein’s behaviour since he is no longer alive. Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan federal jail in August 2019 as he awaited his own sex trafficking trial.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to six counts of sex trafficking and other crimes.

Her lawyers argued that the women’s memories had been corrupted in the decades since the abuse allegedly occurred, and called to the stand Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine.

Loftus told the jury about experiments in which she and colleagues had successfully planted false memories in study participants’ minds.

“Even traumatic experiences can be subjected to post-event suggestion,” Loftus said. “False memories … can be very vivid, detailed. People can be confident about them, people can be emotional about them, even though they’re false.”

Maxwell’s attorneys have argued she is being scapegoated for Epstein’s behaviour since he is no longer alive [File: John Minchillo/AP Photo]

Loftus has been an expert witness or consultant for the defence in hundreds of trials, including those of OJ Simpson and Harvey Weinstein.

Jurors also asked for the testimony of three other defence witnesses: Maxwell’s former executive assistant, Cimberly Espinosa, and two FBI agents, Amanda Young and Jason Richards.

The other transcript requested was that of a prosecution witness, Shawn, a former boyfriend of one of Maxwell’s accusers, a woman who was identified in court only as “Carolyn”.

Maxwell, 60, was arrested in July 2020. Deemed a flight risk, she has been held without bail ever since.

Judge Nathan has repeatedly rejected bail attempts, including a $28.5m package that would have required Maxwell to submit to 24-hour armed guards at her residence to ensure her appearance in court.

Source: News Agencies