On the second day of jury selection at Harvey Weinstein’s trial in Los Angeles, the former film producer was taken to the courtroom, having changed from his prison uniform to a suit. “Hello everyone,” he said, greeting the jurors from the defense table as he climbed into a seat from his wheelchair.
But before Weinstein faced a group of 71 potential jurors in his rape and sexual assault trial, his lawyers had another issue to bring to court: the “unsanitary” and “sinky” conditions in Weinstein’s holding cell.
“It’s almost medieval, the circumstances. I worry about his health and his ability to survive this ordeal. I worry about him surviving this ordeal without a heart attack or stroke,” Weinstein’s attorney, Mark Werksman, told Judge Lisa Lynch.
“I hate using the word special treatment,” Werksman continued. “He’s a 70-year-old man with health issues.”
Weinstein’s lawyer indicated that his client had no access to the toilet in the cell.
He was not denied a toilet. The judge responded by replying: “There is a toilet in the cell.” I will not let the record reflect that he was denied a toilet. I wouldn’t make the record look like he didn’t have access to a toilet.”
“It’s unhygienic, practically unusable, it’s medieval,” replied Werksmann, noting that he had not intended to imply that there was no toilet available.
Weinstein’s attorney filed four doctors’ notes with court and told the judge that when his client leaves the courtroom each day, he is moved to a holding cell, where he is left alone in his wheelchair for a few hours before being sent back to prison. The judge said she would talk to MPs about Weinstein’s situation, but made clear that there were no surplus wheelchairs available to pick him up after the trial for the day. “I’m not underestimating it, and I’m not sure there is much that needs to be done,” Judge Lynch said.
Weinstein’s health was an issue his attorneys had repeatedly raised — not only during this current trial, but also during his New York trial, as he entered the courtroom with a walker every day. After a jury found him guilty of rape and sexual assault during that trial in 2020, Weinstein was taken to hospital with chest pains and undergoing heart surgery, rather than being taken directly to prison.
Weinstein’s defense team said he had heart problems, diabetes, sleep apnea and eye problems. His lawyers previously described him as “technically blind” and he recently begged a judge to let him visit a private dentist because his teeth were rotting in prison.
Day three for jury selection will continue on Wednesday, and the process is expected to span two weeks, with opening statements scheduled for October 24.
This trial is Weinstein’s second rape and sexual assault trial, after he was convicted in 2020 and sentenced to 23 years in prison. If he is found guilty again in this trial, which is based on 11 new charges involving five women, he will never get out again.