UPDATE | Judge: Key Harvey Weinstein hearing to be held in secret
NEW YORK (AP) — An important pretrial hearing in Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault case was poised to play out in secret today after a judge ruled against news organizations fighting to keep the courtroom open.
Both the prosecution and defense asked that the hearing, which would deal with trial strategy and potential witnesses, be held behind closed doors.
Manhattan judge James Burke said closing the courtroom to the press and public was "the only means available to avoid the tainting of the jury pool."
He said that preserving the 67-year-old former movie mogul's right to a fair trial is paramount to the press' right of access to court proceedings, and that coverage of the hearing – which would deal with material that "is prejudicial to the defendant and is highly inflammatory" – would serve no purpose but to stir negative public sentiment toward Weinstein.
Judge Burke also denied the media organizations' request to delay the hearing so they would have time to appeal. Their attorneys were asking an appeals court to halt the proceeding.
After the closed-door session, a discussion of procedural matters was expected to unfold in open court.
NEW YORK (AP) — An important pretrial hearing in Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault case could play out in secret if a judge rules against news organizations fighting to keep the courtroom open.
Both the prosecution and defense have asked that today's hearing, which will deal with trial strategy and potential witnesses, be held behind closed doors.
After hearing oral arguments, Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice James Burke said he planned to rule later this morning.
Prosecutors say they want to protect Weinstein's right to a fair trial and shield the identities of women who've accused the disgraced movie mogul of wrongdoing.
"We believe it is prudent for the court to exercise their discretion and close the court," Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said.
Weinstein's lawyers say news coverage could taint the jury pool. The hearing is expected to focus on some of the dozens of women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct but whose allegations haven't led to criminal charges.
"The court cannot be complicit with the press in denying the defendant's right to a fair trial," Weinstein lawyer Marianne Bertuna said.
Lawyers for the news organizations, including The Associated Press and The New York Times, argue that the sides haven't met a high legal standard for banning the media and the public.
Weinstein's case is "a matter of immense and legitimate public interest," and the allegations against him are already widely known, said Robert Balin, a lawyer representing the news organizations.
The sides asking for the courtroom to be closed are suggesting that "somehow it is improper for the press and the public to be sitting here and report news in real time," even though that right is guaranteed by the Constitution, Balin argued.
A lawyer for Court TV and a reporter from New York magazine also argued in favor of keeping the courtroom open.