As Harvey Weinstein’s Jury Struggles to Reach a Decision, What Would Justice Look Like Here

Jurors in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial were deadlocked over two of the charges against him on Friday, and as we head into more deliberations on Monday, now seems like a good time to reflect on what it is that the jury is actually debating, what that says about the legal system and what justice would even look like in this trial.

The first, most important thing to remember when examining Weinstein’s trial is that he is facing charges stemming from specific incidents that happened with two specific women, Jessica Mann and Miriam Haley. He’s not on trial for allegedly raping Paz de la Huerta or Rose McGowan or Asia Argento or most of the other horrible things he’s been accused of by various actresses. While the testimony of other alleged victims was introduced in the case to establish a pattern of behavior on Weinstein’s part, he can only be found guilty of the crimes he’s actually charged with.

This is something important to remember as we wait for the verdict. On Saturday, NBC News published a story covering the opinions of some of Weinstein’s alleged victims, including character actress Caitlin Dulany, who said that if Weinstein was acquitted, “It would be because our criminal justice system is so flawed.”

I understand Dulany’s feelings, but an acquittal for Weinstein wouldn’t be an indictment of our legal system, but rather proof that it is working as intended. Weinstein isn’t on trial for raping Dulany, so a not guilty verdict wouldn’t be a repudiation of her claims. The foundation of justice in our legal system is that it’s better for a hundred guilty men to walk free than for a single innocent man to be imprisoned, so Harvey Weinstein walking wouldn’t mean the interests of justice as a whole were not served, even if you believe he’s guilty.

In fact, with over 80 women accusing Weinstein of abuses of various levels of severity, it’s hard to believe Weinstein is innocent of everything he’s accused of. But as I mentioned, he’s not on trial for the scores of accusations made against him, just the accusations of two women in two specific incidents.

To find Weinstein guilty, jurors need to believe that Weinstein committed these particular acts beyond a reasonable doubt. Jessica Mann’s testimony was contradicted her former roommate Talia Maia and by text messages she exchanged with Weinstein before and after the incident, so it’s perfectly logical to assume at least some jurors have reasonable doubts as to his guilt in that particular incident. Without knowing exactly which charges jurors are deadlocked on and if they’ve reached a unanimous decision on the others, it’s impossible to speculate on if this is the source of the issue, but it does seem like a likely scenario.

Another important thing to remember is that our legal system is flawed and those flaws disproportionately affect African-Americans who are more likely to be targeted by police and to be convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. People making calls to make it easier to convict people  should think long and hard about whether putting Harvey Weinstein in jail is worth the large number of innocent black men who will be imprisoned under these theoretical conditions making it easier to convict.

The fact that sometimes bad people go free isn’t a flaw in our justice system, but the fact that innocent people are imprisoned is. We can’t let our idea of what justice looks like by the fact that a few high-profile scumbags like Weinstein potentially go free when the black community bears such a harsh price for the current flaws of the system. Tools making it easier to convict will still be used disproportionately on poor people of color while rich, influential criminals continue to walk free, and that is a much larger miscarriage of justice than a potential acquittal of Weinstein.

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4 years ago

Compelling argument, well said.