Ronan Farrow: What Weinstein's Appeal Could Mean for Trump

Admission of evidence unrelated to the charges also factors into Trump's hush-money case
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 26, 2024 6:27 AM CDT
Farrow: Weinstein Appeal Could Be Inspiration for Trump
Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom in Manhattan criminal court, before the start of his trial on Thursday, April 25, 2024, in New York.   (Mark Peterson/Pool Photo via AP)

As shocking as the overturning of Harvey Weinstein's sex crimes conviction appears to the public, legal experts are not surprised, journalist Ronan Farrow writes at the New Yorker, noting the appeal rested on an issue that could open up a path of appeal for former President Trump should he be convicted in his hush-money trial. The Weinstein appeal rested on the allowance of testimony from women whose allegations were not part of the New York case. "The idea that juries should consider only the crimes charged in a given case, and that evidence of other bad acts should be excluded, is a foundational principle of criminal law, designed to protect defendants from the unfair presumption of guilt," Farrow writes. But there are exemptions—for instance, for sex crimes under federal law.

New York "has not adopted that federal exception" but allows jurors to consider evidence of uncharged crimes in certain cases, such as when they establish motive or intent, Farrow writes. The majority decision by the New York Court of Appeals says the testimony in the Weinstein case "undermined" the media mogul's right to testify and "served no material non-propensity purpose"—though dissenting judges say this interpretation means "defendants will be insulated from, past criminal acts, even after putting intent at issue by claiming consent." This is relevant to Trump because the judge overseeing his hush-money trial in New York admitted evidence of payments made by the parent company of the National Enquirer to "catch and kill" unflattering reports about Trump, which the prosecution says establishes motive, intent, and a broader conspiracy.

Judge Juan Merchan has also allowed prosecutors to ask Trump about other cases against him if he takes the stand, but has denied requests to introduce other evidence related to uncharged behavior, deeming it "insufficiently relevant," Farrow writes. That might be the correct interpretation. Certainly, the application of the law in the Trump case "is, on its face, less controversial than the admission of uncharged assault allegations during Weinstein's trial," Farrow writes. "But the case's reliance on evidence of uncharged activity will nevertheless afford Trump and his team ample opportunity to push back ... potentially drawing the trial into the thicket of legal questions that brought down Weinstein's New York verdict." Read the piece in full here. (More Harvey Weinstein stories.)

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