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Was Kevin Spacey too close to the jurors in his case?

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

2nd October 2023

The double Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey faced nine charges (reduced from originally twelve due to a legal technicality with another being added mid-case) of sexual assault on four complainants between 2001 and 2013 at Southwark Crown Court. After a four week trial where he denied all charges, he was acquitted on his 64th birthday by a jury delivering a majority verdict after deliberating for 12 hours and 26 minutes.

The trial which called Sir Elton John as a defence witness and refereed to a number of celebrities heard Spacey being called a “sexual bully “ by the Prosecution. Whilst he admitted to a number of causal sexual encounters, he stated that having one night stands does not “make me a bad person” whilst he protested his innocence. He stated that the accusations were baseless, some concerned consensual encounter sand one was fuelled by a complainant’s desire to gain financially. It is understood that two complainants are continuing to pursue Kevin Spacey in the civil courts.

Upon hearing the verdict in this trial Spacey broke down in tears and mouthed “Thank you” to the jury. After the acquittal Spacey stated to the waiting press that he was humbled by the outcome and said he was “enormously grateful to the jurors who had taken the time to examine all of the evidence and all of the facts”. Jurors waited to hear this speech and five of them had a private meet and greet with him where he was seen to be weeping and bowing to them. One juror was even heard saying “Well done” to Spacey’s business partner and manager Lowenstein who had accompanied him on each day of the trial.

Now Spacey aims to rebuild his career after his legal woes. Last year he successfully fought a New York civil trial brought by actor Anthony Rapp concerning sexual conduct with him when he was a minor, after this there were also 20 complaints lobbied against him during his tenure as Artistic Director of the Old Vic theatre in London. When this came to light he was dropped from his role in the Netflix drama “House of Cards” where further allegation of sexual assault were levied at him and his production company were ordered to pay the makers of the show over £25m due to losses incurred stemming from this.

Questions to consider

  • This verdict was reached by the jury as a majority -what does this mean and when can this be accepted?
  • Do you think the jurors were influenced by Kevin Spacey’s celebrity status? Can this ever be overcome?
  • What do you think are the strengths and weakness of trial by jury?

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

Gemma is an experienced Law teacher and examiner.

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