The Student Room Group

Harvey Weinstein’s New York convictions quashed by state’s apex court

Today, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, allowed Harvey Weinstein’s appeal against his 2020 convictions, which were for a first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape. The judgment, in People v. Weinstein, can be read here.

Per ABC News, Weinstein’s attorneys ‘argued the rape charge could not be retried because it involves alleged conduct outside the statute of limitations’, but the Court rejected this ground of appeal. With respect to a re-trial, a representative for the Manhattan DA’s office has said, ‘We will do everything in our power to retry this case’.

This judgment does not mean that Weinstein is a free man. He must still serve prison time for his California convictions of forcible rape, sexual penetration by foreign object and forcible oral copulation. He is also still awaiting trial in England, where he has been charged with two counts of indecent assault.

If this thread does produce any debate, I hope we can be civil and respectful about it. This is a major news story with strong opinions, but it is also a sensitive one.
(edited 1 month ago)
Thanks for the helpful links.

The prosecutors must now consider whether they have a realistic chance of securing a conviction at a retrial, without the evidence which the Appellate Judges have ruled inadmissible.

The appeal raised issues of the State of New York's Molineux principle, under which evidence of uncharged crimes is not usually admissible, subject to some exceptions under which evidence of other crimes may be used to prove the charged crime. This may occur where, for example, such evidence “tends to establish (1 ) motive; (2) intent; (3) the absence of mistake or accident; (4) a common scheme or plan embracing the commission of two or more crimes so related to each other that proof of one tends to establish the others; and (5) the identity of the person charged with the commission of the crime on trial".

This principle may be summarised as "you don't give a dog a bad name and then hang him".

In English law, the principle is called "similar fact", and the principle can be seen in Federal law (Rule 404 of the Federal Rules of Evidence), and in various forms in the laws of individual States.

I saw someone ask on another forum whether the double jeopardy principle prevents a retrial. In case that question is raised here, the answer is negative.

The defences of autrefois acquit (another time acquitted) and autrefois convict (another time convicted) do not apply when a verdict has been set aside on appeal. Weinstein remains accused in New York. He is once again presumed innocent. The verdict at the trial having been set aside, Weinstein's legal position is that he has not yet been either convicted or acquitted of the New York charges.
(edited 1 month ago)
Reply 2
Hi! Thanks for your informative contribution. :smile:

Original post by Stiffy Byng
The prosecutors must now consider whether they have a realistic chance of securing a conviction at a retrial, without the evidence which the Appellate Judges have ruled inadmissible.


Beneath both the Court’s judgment and dissents (on page 77), it states that a new trial was ordered by the Court. Do you believe that the Court determined that the prosecution still had a realistic chance of securing a conviction, or would you suspect there is some other reason for this?

Original post by Stiffy Byng
The appeal raised issues of the State of New York's Molineux principle, under which evidence of uncharged crimes is not usually admissible, subject to some exceptions under which evidence of other crimes may be used to prove the charged crime. This may occur where, for example, such evidence “tends to establish (1 ) motive; (2) intent; (3) the absence of mistake or accident; (4) a common scheme or plan embracing the commission of two or more crimes so related to each other that proof of one tends to establish the others; and (5) the identity of the person charged with the commission of the crime on trial".


With respect to New York’s Monileux principle, to what extent would you agree with this excerpt from Judge Singas’s dissenting opinion (p. 2):

‘The Molineux rule—created by this Court— has never been static. Instead, its use has evolved over time to meet the challenges of complex criminal prosecutions. Unfortunately, in the context of sexual assault, that evolution lapses today with a decision that has all but ended the use of Molineux evidence in such cases.’

I saw someone consider it a trifle dramatic, but I can understand the tone, since the stakes seem pretty high, and this was, I’d say, a major case in the #MeToo movement.
(edited 1 month ago)
The Court has formed no view on the prospects of a prosecution succeeding. It is a matter for the prosecutors to decide whether there is a case worth taking to a jury.

I am travelling now and will have to look at your second question tomorrow.
Reply 4
Original post by Stiffy Byng
The Court has formed no view on the prospects of a prosecution succeeding. It is a matter for the prosecutors to decide whether there is a case worth taking to a jury.
I am travelling now and will have to look at your second question tomorrow.

You see? I thought that too haha, hence my decision to put a comment from the Manhattan DA's office, because I thought it could still exercise some discretion in bringing the case again.

But then I re-read page 77, and now I’m a little confused, and I admit that this may be a silly question (and I apologise for that), but clarity is always welcome. Perhaps you could explain what the purpose of ordering a new trial is, which I believe the Court did, since it says ‘new trial ordered’ on page 77. If a new trial was ordered, I don't see how compliance with that order can be achieved if prosecutors decline to bring the case again, because no new trial can take place unless they do. And if the prosecutors have to bring the case again, because a new trial has been ordered, that to me appears to take the decision out of the DA’s hands. Also, I believe that under NY Criminal Procedure Law (‘CPL’), specifically §30.30(7)(a), ‘where the defendant is...to be retried following...an order for a new trial...the criminal action...must be deemed to have commenced on...the date the order occasioning a retrial becomes final’, and I thought that the order for a new trial was final in this case, so a criminal action against Weinstein has now begun again already, without the prosecutors deciding themselves if they wish to re-charge him. However, I am more than happy to be corrected.

Thanks in advance, and I hope you had a safe and enjoyable travels. 🙂
(edited 1 month ago)
Hello, and thanks.

Weinstein asked the Court to dismiss the charges but the Court declined to do so and therefore directed a re-trial. The prosecution retains the discretion to discontinue, and if it does so the charges will be dismissed.

I am still pondering whether I prefer the reasoning of the majority or of the dissenters (not that my views matter: I'm not a Judge of that or any Court!). If I can make my mind up, I'll post again. As a general comment, the inclusion or exclusion of evidence of misconduct other than that charged almost always makes for a difficult decision. The rules of evidence in criminal cases are strict. Every defendant, even the most unpopular defendants who may be thought guilty by the public, has the right to a fair trial.
Reply 6
Original post by Stiffy Byng
Hello, and thanks.
Weinstein asked the Court to dismiss the charges but the Court declined to do so and therefore directed a re-trial. The prosecution retains the discretion to discontinue, and if it does so the charges will be dismissed.

Thank you for clarifying that. I now fully understand.

Unfortunately, it seems as though a re-trial in New York may not come as quickly as some have hoped. Whilst the DA’s office has offered to re-try it, ‘provided his accusers are willing to come forward again’ (per Time Magazine), it appears that may be a pretty tough condition, as Mimi Haleyi, one of the New York complainants, strongly implied (per ABC News). It must truly be so difficult to speak up in this situation.

Fortunately, it appears that California’s rules of evidence, according to some lawyers, are more lenient when it comes to ‘similar fact’ evidence (I think I’ve heard it referred to as ‘"bad character" evidence’ before, and I wonder if that’s correct), so this ground of appeal will, at least, probably not threaten the safety of his conviction there. That said, I wonder if his Californian sentence will be affected, since the Hollywood Reporter article mentions that he was ‘sentenced...to the higher end of the maximum term because of his prior guilty verdict [in New York]’.

Original post by Stiffy Byng
As a general comment, the inclusion or exclusion of evidence of misconduct other than that charged almost always makes for a difficult decision. The rules of evidence in criminal cases are strict. Every defendant, even the most unpopular defendants who may be thought guilty by the public, has the right to a fair trial.


Thank you for the general comment and re-stating a fundamental principle of justice. I do enjoy your comments.
(edited 1 month ago)
Harvey Weinstein hospitalised after returning to jail in New York City, his lawyer says

https://apple.news/AYg2bUdWlS0CIcODvxnIpTg
Original post by Tolgash
Thank you for clarifying that. I now fully understand.
Unfortunately, it seems as though a re-trial in New York may not come as quickly as some have hoped. Whilst the DA’s office has offered to re-try it, ‘provided his accusers are willing to come forward again’ (per Time Magazine), it appears that may be a pretty tough condition, as Mimi Haleyi, one of the New York complainants, strongly implied (per ABC News). It must truly be so difficult to speak up in this situation.
Fortunately, it appears that California’s rules of evidence, according to some lawyers, are more lenient when it comes to ‘similar fact’ evidence (I think I’ve heard it referred to as ‘"bad character" evidence’ before, and I wonder if that’s correct), so this ground of appeal will, at least, probably not threaten the safety of his conviction there. That said, I wonder if his Californian sentence will be affected, since the Hollywood Reporter article mentions that he was ‘sentenced...to the higher end of the maximum term because of his prior guilty verdict [in New York]’.
Thank you for the general comment and re-stating a fundamental principle of justice. I do enjoy your comments.

Thanks for your kind words.

I find the question of admissibility of the similar fact evidence a difficult one. On balance, I think that the majority Judges in the New York Court are probably correct as a matter of the law of New York, for the reasons that they state in the judgment. I think that the dissents may over state the negative impact on the chance of obtaining convictions in cases of sexual violence.

I think that under English law the evidence would probably be admissible, but the Molineux test used in the law of New York is stricter than the test used in English law.

The burden on the complainants of having to give evidence again is a hard one, and nobody could blame them if they were reluctant to go through the process again.

Perhaps the prosecution took a high risk approach by proffering Molineux evidence. Maybe it would have been better to go with just the evidence of the complainants and the expert witness. But that's hindsight, and armchair quarterbacking.

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