Judge in Weinstein's case refuses to remove himself

Harvey Weinstein.
Harvey Weinstein.

NEW YORK • The judge in the rape trial of Harvey Weinstein has declined a request from the defence that he step aside, as jury selection dipped into a third day on Thursday.

Judge James Burke announced his decision a day after Weinstein's lawyers sent him a letter asking that he remove himself from the case.

They objected to comments he made when he asked Weinstein if he was willing to go to jail "for life" if he kept ignoring a court order that bars texting in the courtroom.

Weinstein's lawyers blasted the judge's comments as "prejudicial and inflammatory" - and raised questions about his impartiality.

There was nothing improper about "scolding a recalcitrant defendant" over violating the cellphone ban, the judge said on Thursday, adding that he was merely trying to scare Weinstein.

"I never meant that I was going to put your client in jail for life," he told defence lawyers.

Judges seldom step aside from cases over such requests, but Weinstein's lawyers could also be making a play to make an issue of the judge's comments and rulings for a possible appeal.

The defence had further argued that the judge failed to adequately safeguard Weinstein's right to a fair and impartial jury, in part by rejecting a request to halt jury selection for a "cooling off" period after prosecutors in Los Angeles filed new sex crime charges against him on Monday.

Weinstein is charged in New York with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulting another woman in 2006.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2020, with the headline 'Judge in Weinstein's case refuses to remove himself'. Print Edition | Subscribe