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Leading Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Leonard explains Weinstein Appellate Court Reversal

by | Apr 29, 2024 | State Crimes

Leading Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Leonard explains Weinstein Appellate court reversal. As has been widely reported, New York State’s highest appellate court reversed the sex crimes conviction of famed and now disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. This decision has come under substantial scrutiny, including of course from the numerous women who alleged that Weinstein engaged in sexual misconduct over a time period spanning decades.

However, upon further examination, based upon the applicable New York law and the evidence that the trial judge allowed to be admitted in Weinstein’s State Court New York trial, the Appellate Court’s decision is right on point. In short, the trial judge in that case erred in two significant ways that undeniably caused substantial prejudice to Weinstein and his right to a fair trial.

First, contrary to New York law, the trial judge allowed three women to testify against Weinstein in the prosecution’s case-in-chief regarding other, uncharged sex crimes purportedly perpetrated by Weinstein. Such uncharged crimes are generally inadmissible under applicable New York law. Nonetheless, the trial judge allowed all of that testimony to be heard even though it was not directly relevant to the crimes actually charged in the case. Obviously, the prosecution’s intent in attempting to introduce that other testimony was to bolster its case with respect to the crimes charged. The New York Appellate Court held that, in and of itself, was error and necessitated remand for a new trial.

Second, and equally important, the prosecution also sought, by way of pre-trial motion, the admission of numerous “bad acts” purportedly committed over the years – which had absolutely nothing to do with the crimes charged – in the event that Weinstein took the stand and testified at trial. Those prior bad acts had nothing to do with the crimes actually charged; were far afield from the case at hand; and would have substantially prejudiced Weinstein if he took the stand. The Appellate Court found that too was error because it essentially made it impossible for Weinstein to testify at trial – and thus forced him off the stand and denied him a fair trial.

The lesson learned for prosecutors is that, even though it may seem like a good idea to attempt to convince a trial judge to admit questionably relevant evidence in order to gain a conviction at trial, it is not worth it when the end result is reversal. Put otherwise, if the case is questionable, in terms of the ability to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, then prosecutors should think long and hard about whether the case should be brought in the first place.

Michael Leonard

Leonard Trial Lawyers 

April 29, 2024