What Weinstein’s Overturned Conviction Means for His California Case

The decision by New York’s top court on Thursday to overturn the conviction of Harvey Weinstein on sex crime charges raised many thorny legal questions. Perhaps chief among them: Will it bolster his chances of a successful appeal in a similar case in California?

Mr. Weinstein’s lawyer in California, Jennifer Bonjean, plans to file that appeal next month, and has said she believes the New York decision helps her chances of winning. In both cases, prosecutors offered witnesses who said they had been assaulted by Mr. Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood producer, even though their accounts were not tied to criminal charges.

Prosecutors in sexual assault cases sometimes use such witnesses to establish a pattern of behavior, but it can be a risky move because defendants are typically supposed to be judged only on the crimes with which they have been charged.

The tactic was at the heart of the 4-to-3 decision on Thursday by New York’s Court of Appeals, which concluded that the judge who presided over Mr. Weinstein’s case in 2020 had deprived him of a fair trial by allowing those witnesses to testify.

Mr. Weinstein is expected to appear in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday for a procedural hearing that is the first step for prosecutors to restart the criminal case to try him again.

New York and California law differ on the crucial issue of witnesses. The office of the Los Angeles district attorney, George Gascón, said that California’s law, unlike New York’s, allows evidence, at a judge’s discretion, that shows a defendant’s “propensity” to commit sexual assault.

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