Potential juror pool narrows in Weinstein's rape trial

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Harvey Weinstein arrives for jury selection in his trial on rape and sexual assault charges, in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK, NY – Harvey Weinstein and his lawyers met with prosecutors behind closed doors for about an hour Wednesday as they worked to whittle down the pool of prospective jurors in his New York rape trial.

The legal teams narrowed the juror pool by examining responses to a questionnaire given to them asking, among other things, if they could ignore media coverage and decide the case based only on evidence heard in court. They were also asked if they or someone they knew had been a victim of sexual violence.

The defense and prosecution started going over the questionnaires Tuesday and had already “come a long way” on agreeing which prospective jurors should return for further questioning by the time court resumed Wednesday, Judge James Burke said.

About 50 of the 120 prospective jurors summoned to court Wednesday were dismissed for various reasons after an initial phase of group questioning, most of them because they indicated they could not be fair and impartial.

Mazdack Rassi, the co-founder of Milk Makeup and Milk Studios, a photography and production house, was sent home after saying he knew Weinstein, as well as the disgraced movie mogul’s wife and children, and didn’t think he could be impartial.

Rassi’s wife, Zanna Roberts Rassi, a fashion editor, has appeared on several seasons of “Project Runway: All Stars,” a reality competition show produced by Weinstein’s former entertainment studio.

Rassi didn’t mention it in court, buthe was involved in producing a series of short films in 2008 with “Friends” star David Schwimmer that highlighted various forms of sexual harassment.

A second round of questioning meant to finalize the jury panel is due to start Thursday.

Jury selection is in its seventh day.

Weinstein, 67, is accused of raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulting another in 2006. The former studio boss behind such Oscar winners as “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love” has said any sexual activity was consensual.

Both sides hope to deliver opening statements before the end of the month. The trial is expected to last into March.

If convicted, Weinstein could face life in prison.

Los Angeles prosecutors recently announced new charges in a separate case against Weinstein.

Those charges accuse Weinstein of raping one woman and sexually assaulting another woman on back-to-back nights in 2013. He has not entered a plea in that case, which will be tried later.