NY court overturns Weinstein conviction, slams tendency evidence

New York’s highest court on Thursday overturned disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 conviction on sex crime charges, a shock reversal in the landmark case that launched the #MeToo movement. 

In their 4-3 decision, judges cited errors in the way the trial had been conducted, including admitting the testimony of women who were not part of the charges against him, reported The Australian (26/4/24).

“Order reversed and a new trial ordered,” the ruling said.

“The accused has a right to be held to account only for the crime charged and, thus, allegations of prior bad acts may not be admitted against them for the sole purpose of establishing their propensity for criminality,” wrote Judge Jenny Rivera, in an opinion for the majority.

“establishing their propensity for criminality” is the basis of the tendency provisions which are often used in Australian courts, especially in sexual abuse cases. One senior counsel has said: “Tendency and coincidence is a way to convict someone in a case that does not stand the test of beyond reasonable doubt. It puts aside the relevance of all evidence.”

We have reported on two sexual abuse cases where tendency evidence was used in this way – resulting in what we consider wrongful convictions. The New York decision strengthens our arguments against tendency evidence.


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