Jurors in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial resumed deliberations Wednesday morning with the heightened threat of coronavirus and potential trial disruptions should any of them fall ill looming over them.
Jurors quickly sent a note asking to see more transcripts from trial testimony to help them with their discussions.
The note requested to see testimony from five witnesses. Among those witnesses: Shawn, who is Maxwell accuser Carolyn’s ex-boyfriend; Cimberly Espinosa, who is a former assistant to the British socialite; two FBI agents; and false memory expert Dr Elizabeth Loftus. The jury has now deliberated more than 30 hours without reaching a verdict.
On Tuesday, Judge Alison Nathan voiced deep concern that surging coronavirus infection rates across New York City – fueled by the hyper-transmissible Omicron variant – could send proceedings into a tailspin if they don’t end soon.
Nathan told lawyers on the case that if jurors don’t reach a verdict Wednesday, they should be prepared to deliberate until they do so – including possible deliberations over the new year holiday weekend.
“We now face a high and escalating risk that jurors and trial participants may need to quarantine,” Nathan warned, “thus disrupting trial, putting at risk our ability to complete this trial.”
While the onslaught of Covid cases has been felt across the US, New York City has been hit particularly hard. The seven-day average of positive tests for city residents hit 19.97% as of Sunday, according to NBC 4 New York.
“We are very simply at a different place regarding the pandemic than we were only one week ago,” Nathan remarked.
“Put simply, I conclude that proceeding this way is the best chance to give the jury as much time they need and to avoid a mistrial as a result of the Omicron variant.”
The jury note Wednesday morning that requested trial transcripts indicated that panelists had holiday scheduling on their minds.
“Also, may we have clarification regarding our schedule going forward,” they said. “Are we required to continue our deliberations everyday including 12/31 and 1/1 … we ask in order to plan our schedules accordingly.”
Nathan said that her response note to jurors would state that deliberations will continue “as needed, every day going forward… until you reach a verdict”. However, she asked jurors to indicate whether such would “present a substantial hardship for anyone because of unmovable commitments”.
Before the trial started in earnest, Nathan told lawyers on Maxwell’s case that she would not boot prospective jurors based on vaccination status. One potential juror – who was ultimately selected to serve on the panel – told the court that she was not currently enrolled in graduate school “because of the vaccination requirement.”
Maxwell, 60, is being tried on six counts for alleged involvement in her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of girls, some as young as 14. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty.
Epstein, a convicted sex offender and financier with powerful associates including Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, was apprehended in July 2019 for sex trafficking minor teens. He killed himself in a Manhattan federal jail about one month after his arrest.