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NY Court of Appeals got it right in Weinstein case reversal

By Sandy . . . One of the greatest obstacles NARSOL faces is the belief that we want to keep people who sexually harm other people from being punished. Nothing could be further from the truth. NARSOL firmly believes that everyone has the responsibility for obeying the law and that people who harm others must be held accountable for what they did and face consequences, which includes punishment, for their actions.

The most important truth from that paragraph needs to be clarified and emphasized: They must be held accountable for what was proven in a court of law. That is the foundation on which our judicial system is built. That is inherent in the well-known phrase, “Innocent until proven guilty.”

New York’s Court of Appeals—the highest court in New York, in most states called the state supreme court—has issued a finding in a review of Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 New York conviction for rape that makes that same point. In an opinion that reverses that conviction, the Appeals Court found that the trial court judge committed “egregious” behavior by letting “women testify about allegations that weren’t part of the case.”

The Court of  Appeals emphasized, “[T]he trial court erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes.”

According to AP, an attorney representing some of Weinstein’s accusers said, “Courts routinely admit evidence of other uncharged acts . . . ”

And therein lies the problem.

“Other uncharged acts” may include behavior that, while annoying, unwelcome, or even vulgar, is not criminal. It may include behavior for which a district attorney could find no evidence of criminality. It may include behavior for which the accuser chose not to make a complaint.

Our criminal judicial system does not exist to assure that we will never be annoyed or even revulsed by the actions of another. It is a major responsibility of district attorneys to determine if a complaint rises to the level of criminality and with sufficient evidence to file charges. If complainants wish their day in court, they must make complaints to the authorities and be prepared to testify in court; they have no right—nor should they have the ability—to usurp the trials of other complainants and have their voices heard there, exemplifying “Me Too” literally.

Weinstein will remain in prison due to a rape conviction in California–which is also under appeal for the same issue.

Advocates for the complainants in the now-overturned trial say this ruling is unfair and that the women will have to testify again and relive their experiences again if the New York district attorney decides to re-try the case. Yes; they will.

Our judicial system is, after all, made up of fallible human beings. When mistakes are made, it is in our best interest to correct them.

That is what New York’s highest court has done.

Sandy Rozek

Written by 

Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

6 Thoughts to “NY Court of Appeals got it right in Weinstein case reversal”

  1. AvatarTim in WI

    We witness concrete evidence that “fair trial doctrine” has been successfully abridged in many cases of sexual assault.
    Was the case against Cosby any different? No.! It’s readily apparent to me that this has been the case since 1992. I lived through it myself. Well, except for the “overturned ” part. Weinstein and Cosby had the resources where I did not. Appeal lawyers are pricey. I remember being quoted 35-45k in 1995.
    The reality is Fair Trials are foundational to peace among the people and nothing undermines the people’s confidence in government than the lack thereof. If his is especially relevant to the courts themselves because the corruption to due process is exposed
    I made the same point on a post over at and as a result they update their blog much less frequently in recent times. They used to cover lots of material evidence of wrongful convictions but I suspect their proclaimed ” criminal justice partners ” are pressuring them to tone it down.

  2. AvatarFacts should matter

    These perpetual victim archetypes are so uppity and entitled that they actually believe ANY conviction of a sexual nature that is overturned, repealed or vacated, is an affront that “trivializes” and “diminishes” their pain and suffering. Which in turn “revictimizes” them all over again. I”M NOT MAKING THIS UP. They actually FEEL this way under a misguided pretense.

    1. AvatarTim in WI

      I agree, and the psychological position of victim’s stance is the most dangerous mindset to be in. Because from the psychological position of victim’s stance the cognitive need for revenge soon follows.

  3. AvatarSasha

    A long time ago, doing the Cosby trial, I mentioned how unfair the trial was during a group therapy session. The counselor did not like my educated response and had chastise me about this. I pointed out that the same thing happens in regards to sexual offenses, and doing my procedures, the district attorney also wanted to present testimony from people that were not involved in the case, calling it relevant bad acts of behavior. This would have been totally unfair, and biased, and it also had the desire effect to produce a plea.
    The mindset that I see out there is that it is okay to throw everything at a person accused of a sexual offense only when it comes to those type of crimes. Facts do not matter, exaggeration does not matter, heck, even when there was medical evidence disproving allegations, it did not matter.
    District Attorneys are given such broad discretion to do everything that they want to do under the guise of Justice. They figured that you’ll settle this in appeal.
    And short, from my experience in dealing with the system, this abise is done very frequently.

    1. AvatarTim in WI

      The old bait and switch. Yep, it very common tactic of law enforcement. My main point about Cosby and Weinstein is they each had skilled and high priced lawyers representing them in well publicized, high profile cases and yet a “fair trial” didn’t take place. What fact does that expose about defendants of far lessor means to defend themselves.

  4. AvatarTim in WI

    Speaking of fair trial doctrine and Judicial discretion; Check out Steve Lehto ( titled: Judge Tells Defense Counsel to Finish cross exam in 4 minutes. Steve goes on to discuss how good lawyer cope with ” offers of proof in sidebars” ( out of jury earshot) when defense is confronted with disagreeable judges. Right handy info in the context of an FTR case. Fact is EVERY PRE ACT( Wetterling) FTR defendant could point to the sentencing transcript’s lack of official proclamation in the judgement.

    [Moderator note: the link in the comment was provided by the moderator and is safe to use.]

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