The judge in the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial in New York has asked jurors to come together to deliberate every day for fear of disruption from Covid.
Citing the city’s “astronomical spike” in Covid cases, Judge Alison Nathan said she needed them to meet “every day until they reach a verdict. The jury resumed deliberations this week after a Christmas break. Maxwell, 60, has denied grooming underage girls for abuse by the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. If she is found guilty, she could face decades in prison. She also pleaded not guilty to two counts of perjury, for which she will be tried separately.
Prosecutors have called the former socialite a “sophisticated predator,” while her attorneys alleged “sensationalism” surrounding her case in her closing statements to jurors. Addressing the threat posed by the rising rate of Covid in New York, the judge said: “We now face an increasing risk that jurors and trial participants may have to self-quarantine. We are just in a different place with respect to the pandemic than we were a week ago.
Jurors were not required to be vaccinated when they were selected. The jury expected to have Thursday and Friday free. Coronavirus cases in New York have skyrocketed from an average of about 3,400 a day in the week ending December 12, to 22,000 in the week ending December 26, the Associated Press reports. But defense attorney Laura Menninger told the judge that any suggestion that the jury stay later .
She noted that the jury continued to request transcripts of trial testimony and other materials that indicated they were working diligently. Tuesday is the fourth full day of deliberations at the trial, as the jury considers six charges against Ms. Maxwell, alleging that she played a role in Epstein’s sexual abuse of teenage girls between 1994 and 2004. Epstein was found dead in a cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell, a socialite and daughter of the late British media mogul Robert Maxwell, has been held in a United States prison without the possibility of bail since her arrest in July 2020. There is a real hiatus in the courtrooms main and overflowing during the jury’s deliberations. Journalists and others spend many hours a day reading books, conversing politely, or exchanging thoughts about questions from the jury.
That calm is easily broken when the prosecution, the defense and the judge appear in the courtroom. Most of the time it is because the jury sent a note. At that moment, one induced by adrenaline, there is a possibility that he will indicate that they have reached a verdict. After four full days, the notes so far have been questions or requests for testimony transcripts and supplies. It is impossible to know how the deliberations.