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A jury last week convicted Jeffrey Epstein's associate Ghislaine Maxwell of sex trafficking.
Two jurors this week said they shared their own experiences of sexual abuse during deliberations.
Experts called the comments "an absolute disaster" and said the case could be retried.
A week after Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of sex trafficking, two jurors in the case told media outlets that they may have swayed the jury by sharing their own experiences of sexual abuse during deliberations — disclosures that could jeopardize the trial.
Maxwell, a British socialite and longtime associate of the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was convicted on five of the six counts against her on December 29 after five days of deliberation.
A juror, Scotty David, identified only by his first and middle names, told The Independent and Reuters that he used his personal experience of abuse to assuage doubts that other jurors had about some of the accusers' testimonies. A second juror told The New York Times that they also shared a personal experience of sexual abuse that "appeared to help shape the jury's discussions."
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Prosecutors filed a letter on Wednesday requesting an inquiry into the remarks, Insider's Michelle Mark reported. Shortly after, Maxwell's attorneys filed two letters requesting a new trial.
Lawyers told Insider that the jurors' remarks to the media were devastating for the prosecution and could mean the case would need to be retried.
"This is the absolute last thing you want when you get a guilty verdict," said Neama Rahmani, the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers and a former federal prosecutor. "You don't want the jurors talking to the media. You don't want them saying something that will result in a mistrial."
"It's an absolute disaster," he added. "This entire conviction may get tossed, and we may have to retry the case."
Rahmani explained that the jurors' comments posed two potential issues: perjury and prejudice — that is, respectively, lying under oath and having a preconceived opinion that may have improperly swayed the jury.
'If the defense knew about it, they would've dismissed him'
Court documents showed that jurors were asked during the selection process if they or anyone in their families were victims of sexual abuse. David told Reuters that he "flew through" the questionnaire and didn't remember if he was asked about personal experiences of sexual abuse. But he said he would have answered honestly.
But if he had answered affirmatively, it's doubtful the defense would have permitted him as a juror.
"If the defense knew about it, they would've dismissed him," said Matthew Barhoma, a criminal-appeals lawyer in Los Angeles. He agreed it appeared "very likely" the case would be retried.
During jury selection, attorneys go to great lengths to avoid selecting someone who would be biased, especially in cases as notorious as Maxwell's. Barhoma said he didn't want to accuse the juror of lying but said there were two reasons a person might lie during jury selection.
"Jurors will lie to get on a jury for two reasons: if the case is notorious, and if they have been victims of the same allegations and they want to convict," he said.
Rahmani said it also appeared to him that David might have lied during jury selection. He said the defense attorneys wouldn't have approved of him, and he cited the prosecutors' reaction to David's comments to the media.
Prosecutors requested an inquiry because they had an ethical duty to flag to the court concerns of possible prejudice, Rahmani said. But they also took the unusual step of requesting that David be appointed an attorney.
"Jurors say and do all sorts of things that are inappropriate or improper, but they don't get appointed an attorney," he said.
That prosecutors thought David needed an attorney suggested that they believed he might have acted criminally by committing perjury.
The jurors said their experiences persuaded others to convict
Another critical factor that could help Maxwell is that both jurors said they believed their comments helped persuade the jury to deliver a guilty verdict.
"If he lied, and if what he told the media was accurate — that he used his own experience to convince the jury to convict — you have perjury and prejudice," Rahmani said.
David told Reuters and The Independent that jurors had doubts about some of the Maxwell accusers' stories. He said he discussed his own experiences to show that memories of sexual abuse can be clear in some aspects and hazy in others.
"I know what happened when I was sexually abused. I remember the color of the carpet, the walls. Some of it can be replayed like a video," David told The Independent. "But I can't remember all the details. There are some things that run together."
After sharing that, he added, some jurors "were able to come around on the memory aspect of the sexual abuse."
Jurors often draw on their personal experiences during deliberations, Rahmani said, and are free to discuss their past when doing so. It would only be an issue if David failed to disclose the sexual abuse on the selection questionnaire.
If it wasn't disclosed, as Rahmani believed was likely the case, and David swayed the other jurors to convict, that would mean his comments caused actual harm to Maxwell, which is needed to prove prejudice.
Prosecutors could argue that the comments didn't affect the verdict, and that the jury would have voted to convict regardless, but that contradicts David's claims.
Barhoma agreed that David's comments about persuading others were especially damning.
"If I was the defense team, I would be taking these quotes right out of Reuters," he said.
"It's saved by the media for Maxwell," he added. "Had he not went off blabbing his mouth to reporters, we may never have uncovered it."
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Read the original article on Insider