Harvey Weinstein, the infamous movie producer, has recently been sentenced to 23 years in prison. This prison sentence comes out of the nearly seven week trial against Weinstein concerning the sexual assault allegations against him. The jury found Weinstein guilty of first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape, ultimately acquitting him of three more serious crimes. These allegations emerge as a long-awaited victory to all those who were harmed by Weinstein and the supporters of the #MeToo movement. Yet, this verdict came as a disappointment to Weinstein and his last words raise a question that is worth looking at.
Firstly, the conviction of Weinstein is undoubtedly a victory for all those who are fighting against sexual abuse even outside of the movie industry. These allegations sparked the #MeToo movement, which indelibly altered Hollywood and brought together victims of sexual abuse from all over the world. After the sentence was given, leaders of the movement praised its lengthy punishment. Those who accused Weinstein were seen crying tears of joy and relief when Weinstein was taken out of the courtroom after his sentence. Yet, although all of these actions, such as the forming of movements, are important parts of progress, they raise questions about our justice system.
During the trial, Weinstein spoke for 20 minutes without prepared remarks. Besides being an unprecedented action, as anything he says can be used against him, he commented on how he was worried about people’s right to due process. Weinstein commented, “I think about the thousands of men and women who are losing due process, and I’m worried about this country.” Referring to the #MeToo movement, Weinstein stated that he felt like he did not receive a fair trial.
This feeling was echoed by one of Weinstein’s defense attorneys, Donna Rotunno, who stated, “that strips your right to due process—if we’re going to convict people before they have a trial—I find that to be damaging and detrimental.” These remarks stem from the defense’s belief that Weinstein’s right to due process was infringed upon – that the social atmosphere and attention that his case attracted and generated influenced the outcome of the trial. Weinstein’s defense continues to argue that he was convicted by what was publicized about him in the media, not the evidence presented in court.
At the same time, this idea fails to consider that Rotunno made similar efforts to affect people’s opinions outside the court. Rotunno published an article herself in which she made complaints about the trial. She also addressed members of the jury in court and stated that they should “do what they know is right and was expected of them from the moment they were called upon to serve.” These efforts to tamper with the jury’s opinion without the use of evidence can also be looked upon as making the trial unfair.
Instead of choosing to blame “the system” and claim that something is wrong, we must have people learn to reconcile with their past and help those who have been harmed. We are a community and we must no longer stand by to watch people be harmed. Everyone deserves a voice and everyone deserves to get justice. We must band together because if we don’t, many more heinous people will claim that their rights are being violated, and hundreds of people will continue to be silenced and suffer.