By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) -In-person jury selection began on Tuesday in the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of grooming underage girls for the late financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse.
Here’s an explanation of how the process will work:
WHAT HAS HAPPENED SO FAR?
Between Nov. 4 and Nov. 12, more than 600 prospective jurors filled out questionnaires asking what they had heard about Maxwell and Epstein, as well as their own experiences with sexual abuse or assault.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
Of that initial pool, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan plans to question 231 individuals in person, a process known as voir dire.
Nathan on Tuesday began asking whether potential jurors know any of the Maxwell accusers who will be testifying at the trial, and if they have opinions about people with “luxurious lifestyles” that would prevent them from being impartial.
Due to the personal nature of many of the questions, prospective jurors are appearing individually before Nathan and lawyers for both sides.
Nathan will dismiss indivuals whose answers indicate they could be biased, known as a strike for cause. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will be able to object to those rulings and propose follow-up questions. Nathan has also excused prospective jurors with travel plans that could interfere with the trial.
Nathan has said she hopes to have a pool of 50 to 60 qualified jurors by the time voir dire is complete on Nov. 19. Attorneys for both sides will then select dozens of jurors to be removed from the pool without specifying a reason – known as a peremptory strike.
Opening statements are scheduled for Nov. 29. The trial is expected to last six weeks.
HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL SERVE ON THE JURY?
The Manhattan federal court jury will consist of 12 jurors and six alternates.
WHO WILL BE ON THE JURY?
The identities of the jurors will not be made public because of the sensitive nature of the case and the personal questions they will be asked during jury selection.
The jury pool is drawn from Manhattan and the Bronx, as well as some of New York City’s northern suburbs.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York;Editing by Noeleen Walder and Jonathan Oatis)