A Ghislaine Maxwell mistrial is looking increasingly possible. The British socialite convicted of sex trafficking minors with Jeffrey Epstein late last month may get another chance to make her case, as her lawyers are expected to file for mistrial on Wednesday, claiming that juror Scotty David omitted his own past as a child sex abuse victim during the screening process.
David has previously admitted to using his personal experience to sway other jurors during deliberations. He told The Daily Mail that he didn’t remember being asked about sexual abuse in a pretrial questionnaire but maintains that he filled out the form truthfully.
Maxwell’s defense team has called David’s admissions “incontrovertible grounds” for a new trial, arguing that the juror’s past made it impossible for him to view the case impartially.
Court Probes Juror Scotty David
Attorneys for Maxwell are expected to file the necessary paperwork this week to have her Dec. 29 conviction tossed out as a mistrial.
The defense team had signaled its intention to move for a new trial — or at least appeal the conviction — almost immediately after the jury handed down its guilty verdict, when juror Scotty David revealed in press interviews that he used his own experience of sexual abuse to convice others of Maxwell’s guilt.
When reporters asked David if he told the court that he was a sexual abuse victim, he said he couldn’t remember doing so, despite the question appearing on a screening form that he filled out. David later said that, while he “flew through” the paperwork and couldn’t remember that question specifically, he believes he would have answered it “honestly.”
For their part, Maxwell’s lawyers argue that any omission by David during jury screening — on purpose or otherwise — makes their client’s conviction illegitimate.
“The Supreme Court has held that to be entitled to a new trial, ‘a party must first demonstrate that a juror failed to answer honestly a material question on voir dire, and then further show that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause,’” her defense team wrote.
“This standard applies even if the juror’s conduct was merely inadvertent and not intentional,” the attorneys added.
Meanwhile, the federal prosecutors who had Maxwell convicted have asked Judge Alison Nathan to conduct a review of David’s remarks in the press and his screening paperwork.
“While the court instructed jurors that they were free to discuss their jury service with anyone of their choosing, some of the statements, as related in the media, merit attention by the court. In particular, the juror has described being a victim of sexual abuse,” they wrote in a letter to the court on Jan. 5.
“Based on the foregoing, the government believes the court should conduct an inquiry,” prosecutors said.
Ghislaine Maxwell Mistrial Faces Hurdles
Federal attorneys have until Feb. 2 to respond to Maxwell’s motion for a new trial, at which point Judge Nathan would consider both arguments and hand down a decision. The timeline for the judge’s ruling was not immediately clear Wednesday.
Legal experts told Reuters that the defense team faces an uphill battle to get Maxwell’s conviction thrown out. Even if the probe of Scotty David reveals that he omitted relevant personal details during screening, sources said that mistrials are generally only declared if the court finds the juror intentionally lied in the hopes of being selected.
Though the path to a new trial seems narrow, it may be Maxwell’s best shot at avoiding a potential 65-year prison sentence. She was convicted on five out of six counts related to Jeffrey Epstein’s minor sex trafficking operation.