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A federal judge began questioning more than 200 prospective jurors Tuesday in the case against Ghislaine Maxwell, just two weeks before the British socialite’s highly anticipated sex trafficking trial is scheduled to begin.
Maxwell is facing six federal counts, including transporting minors to engage in criminal sexual activity and sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud or coercion, after prosecutors accused the 59-year-old of conspiring with and aiding convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse underage girls from 1994 to 2004, NBC News reports.
Beginning Tuesday morning, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan will question 231 potential jurors about their knowledge of the case, past media exposure, knowledge of Maxwell and Epstein and their ability to serve during the lengthy trial that is expected to carry over into the early part of 2022, according to ABC News.
The potential jury pool was whittled down from a list of 600 possible candidates, each of whom filled out a 25-page questionnaire about any biases or potential conflicts of interest they may have in the case.
Each of the remaining candidates are expected to be called before the judge to answer questions about whether they can be impartial in the case.
The pool will eventually be narrowed down to 50 people, who will be instructed to return the first day of trial on Nov. 29, ABC News reports. From there, attorneys will select 12 jurors and six alternates to serve on the case.
Maxwell appeared in court Monday ahead of the jury selection in gray slacks and a black turtleneck—trading in her jail house uniform for more sophisticated attire in court for the first time since her arrest in 2020—as attorneys on both sides formalized the logistics of the juror questioning, The New York Post reports.
Maxwell’s defense attorneys had previously requested that jury selection be completed through a process known as “voir dire” which allows jurors to be questioned in a private setting away from public view, but Nathan struck down the request, ruling that the public and press had a constitutional right to be present, according to ABC News.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her and has repeatedly insisted she has not done anything wrong.
“I have not committed any crime,” she said at a recent pretrial conference, according to The Associated Press.
According to an indictment in the case, prosecutors have accused Maxwell, the youngest daughter of British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, of helping Epstein recruit, groom and abuse underage girls, even participating in the abuse herself at times.
Maxwell’s arrest in 2020 came nearly a year after Epstein was found dead of a suicide in a Manhattan jail cell, while the wealthy financier was awaiting trial on his own set of federal sex trafficking charges.
The pair have been subject to countless podcasts and documentaries including Peacock’s “Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell.”
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