By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Prosecutors in Harvey Weinstein’s New York rape trial are expected to wrap up their case on Thursday then lawyers for the former producer will begin to call defense witnesses.
Weinstein’s witnesses are expected to include two experts: Deborah Davis, a psychology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine and expert on human memory.
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to raping former aspiring actress Jessica Mann and to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi. Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.
Weinstein, who produced films including “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love,” has denied any non-consensual sex.
His trial is widely seen as a milestone in the #MeToo movement in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.
Over the last two weeks, jurors have heard testimony from six women. Mann testified that Weinstein raped her in 2013 in the course of a years-long relationship and Haleyi said that he forced oral sex on her in his Manhattan home in 2006.
Actress Annabella Sciorra testified that Weinstein violently raped her in her own home in 1993 or 1994. Though that allegation is too old to be charged as a separate crime, prosecutors hope it will show Weinstein is a repeat sexual predator, the charge that could put him in prison for life.
Three other women who are not part of the criminal charges, Dawn Dunning, Tarale Wulff and Lauren Young, testified that Weinstein sexually assaulted them. Prosecutors presented their testimony as evidence of Weinstein’s intent.
So far, Weinstein’s defense has consisted of cross-examinations in which his lawyers have sought to undercut the women’s testimony.
That has included highlighting friendly communications they had with Weinstein after the alleged assaults, especially in the case of Mann, who said she maintained a relationship with him for years. Defense lawyers have also sought to underscore any inconsistencies between the women’s testimony and earlier statements they made to investigators.
Davis and Loftus co-authored a 2015 paper in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology titled “Remembering Disputed Sexual Encounters: A New Frontier for Witness Memory Research,” in which they concluded that accusations of sexual assault often involve “honest disagreement in interpretation of consent between the parties” and that an “accuser may well falsely remember that she overtly said or did things that she only thought about.”
Justice James Burke has barred them from testifying specifically about memories of sexual encounters, saying such testimony would not be based on generally accepted scientific research.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Cynthia Osterman)