- Jurors are still deciding Ghislaine Maxwell’s fate, set to resume deliberations on Monday.
- One juror question indicates they’re scrutinizing the reliability of one accuser, Carolyn.
- Another question is a clear-cut win for prosecutors trying to put Maxwell behind bars, an expert said.
On Wednesday afternoon, the twelve jurors deliberating Ghislaine Maxwell’s fate gave everyone a surprise.
No, they hadn’t come to a decision yet. And no, they wouldn’t reach one before Christmas.
That the jurors needed more than two days to decide whether Maxwell would be found guilty or acquitted of six complicated counts wasn’t necessarily unexpected. Maxwell, a child of the former British media baron Robert Maxwell, stands accused of trafficking girls to Jeffrey Epstein for sex, and sometimes participating in sexual abuse herself (she’s denied the charges).
Jurors in other trials have taken longer for less complicated allegations. But the prosecutors and defense attorneys had both previously expected the jurors to want to go home before the US District Court in Manhattan closed its doors on Thursday, ahead of Maxwell’s birthday on Christmas Day.
Alison Nathan, the judge overseeing the case, squeezed closing arguments and her charging conference into one marathon day on Monday, giving them a couple of hours to deliberate in the late afternoon before continuing on Tuesday and Wednesday. When she offered to keep the courthouse open for them Thursday, they responded with a note: “No, thank you.”
The jurors are scheduled to resume deliberations Monday. So far, they’ve sent just a handful of juror notes with questions.
Three legal experts Insider interviewed cautioned that the information we have thus far is too limited to draw strong conclusions about what jurors may be thinking, except that they’re taking the testimony from accusers seriously.
But Lisa Bloom, an attorney representing eight Epstein accusers, said it may be a bad sign for prosecutors that the jurors still haven’t come to a unanimous conclusion.
“There may be at least one juror who has a reasonable doubt. Over the weekend that could grow,” Bloom told Insider. “I’ve watched hundreds of juries and high-profile cases, and many in my own cases. And when they decide to break and take a long holiday weekend and come back, I think that’s generally a good sign for the defense.”
The request for Carolyn’s FBI interview could be good news for Maxwell
In their time deliberating, the jurors have sent a handful of notes, two of which have stood out.
They requested an FBI interview of Carolyn, one of Maxwell’s accusers, who testified using only her first name. And they asked whether the testimony of Annie Farmer, the last accuser in the trial, could count towards two of the conspiracy counts against Maxwell.
The request for Carolyn’s FBI interview, according to Jill Huntley Taylor, a professional psychologist and jury strategist with Taylor Trial Consulting, was a win for Maxwell.
“I think that probably did make the defense feel pretty good, because that’s really where they were focused, on challenging the victims’ testimony,” Huntley Taylor told Insider. “And Carolyn in particular because she didn’t mention Maxwell to the FBI.”
Carolyn has spoken to the FBI a number of times following what she said was years of sexual abuse at the hands of Epstein. In her trial testimony, she said that Maxwell sometimes scheduled sexualized “massages” with Epstein at his Palm Beach, Florida, home.
According to notes from a 2007 FBI interview, Carolyn didn’t name Maxwell as one of those people who scheduled massages, but just a woman with an “accent.” Maxwell’s defense attorneys have highlighted what they viewed as discrepancies in Carolyn’s stories as a way to discredit her testimony.
Bloom said the jury note means that the jurors are taking Maxwell’s lawyers’ arguments seriously.
“It means the jury is very carefully reviewing the evidence and at least one of them thinks that that cross-examination and those FBI statements were significant enough to request them,” Bloom told Insider.
Because the FBI interviews aren’t recorded or transcribed, they can’t be entered into evidence in a trial. The agents who sit in on those interviews just have notes, called a “302” document, but not a “deposition” transcript that jurors asked for.
Nathan declined to give then the FBI notes, and instead directed them to the evidence and trial transcripts they already had — something Bloom said the jury may find frustrating.
“Juries definitely don’t like it when things are kept from them,” Bloom said. “I don’t know who they’re going to hold this against. Would they hold it against the prosecution, or would they hold it against the defense that it didn’t come into evidence? Of course, it’s not the fault of either. It’s the rules of evidence.”
Moira Penza, a former federal prosecutor who led the case against NXIVM cult leader Keith Raniere, pointed out that the process of “impeaching” — or discrediting — a witness was harder than it looked.
Even if Carolyn relayed different details about her story over time, that doesn’t mean her story was necessarily inconsistent. She may have simply emphasized elements about Epstein earlier in time, because the FBI investigation and lawsuit she filed were centered on Epstein.
“You’ll see that even very experienced trial lawyers, trying to say ‘this person changed their story’ is actually much harder than you would think,” Penza said. “Because often it isn’t very clear cut.”
The fact that the jurors asked for only the FBI 302 of Carolyn also bodes well for the rest of the case, Penza said. After all, Maxwell’s attorneys grilled the other three accusers — Farmer, as well as “Jane” and “Kate,” who testified under pseudonyms — about their FBI interviews. And jurors didn’t ask for notes about theirs.
“I don’t think that we are seeing evidence so far through the note process that the jury is buying this defense,” Penza said. “That there was a whole conspiracy for all of these victims to manipulate their story to implicate Ghislaine Maxwell.”
The jury question about Annie Farmer seems like a clear-cut win for prosecutors
Later on Monday, jurors asked Nathan whether they could consider Farmer’s testimony as “conspiracy to crime in counts one and three,” which would allow them to find Maxwell guilty of two of the conspiracy counts against her.
Maxwell’s lawyers appeared furious. Her attorney Christian Everdell asked Nathan to give a qualified answer about the limited of Farmer’s testimony.
Nathan ultimately sided with Assistant US Attorney Maurene Comey, giving a simple “yes” as an answer.
Bloom said Nathan’s “clear as a bell” answer was a victory for prosecutors.
“Anytime you can get the judge, who’s the authority in the courtroom, to just give a definitive “yes” to a question — that’s a definite win for the prosecution,” she said.
Penza said the question may reveal another element of how jurors were thinking — that they were closely focused on Maxwell’s role in Epstein’s sexual abuse operation.
“It’s highly unlikely that the jurors will question there were minors engaging in commercial sex,” Penza said. “So the real question comes down to Maxwell’s role in this. And where I think they would be focusing most is: What did Maxwell know?”
Aside from the specific requests about Carolyn and Annie, the jurors also asked for copies of transcripts for testimony from all four accusers in the trial. They also asked for transcripts of testimony from Juan Alessi, Epstein’s former Palm Beach butler of 20 years who was one of the prosecution’s star witnesses.
If jurors are taking all of the accusers seriously, it may be harder for them to disentangle Maxwell from Epstein, according to Penza.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be difficult for the jurors to believe that all of these women were lying about Ghislaine Maxwell’s role,” Penza said.
Maxwell’s defense attorneys have argued that Epstein compartmentalized his life, and that Maxwell didn’t know about his sexual proclivities.
But Farmer’s story is decidedly less complicated than that of the other accusers in the case. She testified in the trial that she spent a weekend at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch when she was 16 years old, during which Maxwell gave her a sexualized massage and seemed to groom her for sex with Epstein.
Farmer’s more limited experience with Epstein and Maxwell — one weekend, rather than years of abuse that the three other accusers testified about in the trial — gives jurors a different way to examine Maxwell’s role in Epstein’s life.
“It looks like the jury is concentrating on what evidence is there that Maxwell knew what was happening when she wasn’t in the room,” Penza said. “When she was grooming these girls and recruiting them.”
With their question, Penza said, jurors appeared to be zeroing in on exactly what Maxwell knew about Epstein preying in teen girls.
“It’s not that the prosecution has to prove that she saw what happened with her own eyes,” she said. “Even if she was just burying her head in the sand — it’s the law. If you bury your head in the sand, then you are just as criminally culpable.”