Prosecution Makes Closing Arguments In Harvey Weinstein Trial
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The prosecution delivered its final argument in the sex crimes trial of former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein today in New York. Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi stood in front of the jury for three hours forcefully making the case that Weinstein was guilty of five charges of rape and assault. NPR's Rose Friedman was in the courthouse. Hey there, Rose.
ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: Before we get started, want to have a warning to listeners that for the next few minutes this story is going to involve descriptions of sexual assault alleged in this case. And to come back to that, how did the prosecution try to reestablish its framing of this after the defense tried to tear it down in closing arguments yesterday?
FRIEDMAN: Yeah, you know, the jury spent weeks listening to the testimony of women who allege that Weinstein raped or assaulted them, which Weinstein denies. But they also spent weeks hearing Weinstein's lawyers try to poke holes in those stories. So - in, you know, introducing doubts about the details. So Joan Illuzzi really had to give the jury a consistent, believable narrative about each woman.
And then the other thing she did was to describe the women in the case as moral people. A huge part of the defense has been that all six women who testified are lying, that they had consensual relationships with Weinstein and that they're now reframing as abuse. So Illuzzi made the point that none of them had to come forward.
She said - I'm quoting - they didn't come for a beauty contest. They didn't come for money, for fame. They came to be heard. They sacrificed their dignity, their privacy and their peace for the prospect that their voices would be enough for justice. She said the question before the jury isn't whether those women made good or bad decisions, it's whether they're telling the truth.
CORNISH: The charges, though, involve crimes against two women. What were the stories Illuzzi told about them?
FRIEDMAN: Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann - they're sort of the heart of the case - Illuzzi portrayed both of them as people who really had no power in the world. Miriam Haley, she said, had an abusive stepfather. Jessica Mann left a religion she described as a cult, so not much family support, very little money. Illuzzi illustrated that power difference by coming back to this phrase over and over again - Harvey Weinstein everything, witnesses nothing. She basically described a predator who she said was the master of his universe and the witnesses who were merely ants he could step on with no consequence.
CORNISH: There were other women who were part of this case. Can you explain their roles?
FRIEDMAN: Four other women testified that Harvey Weinstein had abused them. Of those four, actress Annabella Sciorra is the one who's part of the charges. If the jury believes her story as well as Jessica Mann's or Miriam Haley's, Weinstein could face a longer sentence - up to life in prison. Sciorra's story is a little different from the other two. She was an established actress when she says Weinstein dropped her off at her apartment after a dinner in the winter of 1993 and then returned and raped her.
As Illuzzi pointed out, she was someone who went to dinners with Uma Thurman, who dated Gary Oldman. If she talked, Illuzzi said, someone might believe her. And when Weinstein found out that journalists were calling Sciorra for her story, Illuzzi showed the jury an email he sent to his PR team telling them to say, quote, "this was consensual, or deny it." Illuzzi told the jury that was tantamount to a confession. She said consensual or deny it are the polar opposites of each other.
CORNISH: And emails played a big role in the defense's case, right?
FRIEDMAN: Yeah. Weinstein's team showed the jury friendly emails from Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann after the alleged assaults. Their argument was, this isn't how you'd talk to someone who raped you. Illuzzi had a really different point to make about this topic, that rape can happen in ongoing relationships. Talking about Jessica Mann, she says, quote, "Jessica Mann could have been completely head over heels in love with Harvey Weinstein. She could have had his name tattooed on her arm. She could have been writing him love notes every single day. She could have been married to him. But all of that, it still wouldn't make a difference. He still would not be allowed to rape her on March 18 of 2013." And that was really the gist of her closing argument. The jury begins their deliberations on Tuesday.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Rose Friedman. Thanks for your reporting.
FRIEDMAN: Thanks, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.