A defense attorney for Chinese billionaire Richard Liu, accused in a lawsuit of raping a 21-year-old University of Minnesota student, asked prospective jurors if they believed that women who told authorities they were sexually assaulted were telling the truth.
A lawyer for the young woman asked a similar question: "Do you feel if women claim they were sexually assaulted, it's probably true they were?"
Twelve jurors — seven women and five men — were seated Friday for the Hennepin County District Court trial. Opening statements are scheduled for Monday. The jurors were chosen from about 30 people who were interviewed Thursday and Friday and filled out extensive questionnaires.
The key issue in the trial, which is expected to take a month, will be whether Richard Liu raped Jingyao Liu, as she maintains, or whether the sex was consensual as he claims. The two parties are not related.
Among the jurors seated were a former public defender who is Black, a car salesman who is Hmong, and a white woman who works in distribution for a candy company.
Richard Liu, 48, is the founder and chair of JD.com, a giant Chinese e-commerce retailer that has been compared to Amazon. Jingyao Liu, 25 and a China native, was a new student at the U in August 2018 when she was invited to a dinner party at the Origami Restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis hosted by Richard Liu.
The plaintiff says that after the party he took her in his chauffeur-driven SUV to her apartment building in Minneapolis, where she claims the assault occurred.
Richard Liu was in the courtroom Thursday and Friday, with his wife seated in the small gallery reserved for the parties. Sitting next to his lawyers, Liu showed little expression and used an earpiece to listen to an interpreter translate the proceedings into Mandarin.
Jingyao Liu was not in the courtroom but is expected to be there Monday.
The court dismissed for cause several juror candidates who indicated they could not be impartial. "The people with the money are usually going to win, regardless," said one man who was dismissed.
Another man told Diane Doolittle, an attorney for the defendant: "I am not a fan of corporations" and would hold it against the accused if he was wealthy. The man, who said he agreed with Judge Edward Wahl's assessment that he was "not fair, not neutral, not open-minded," was dismissed.
Richard Liu was arrested by Minneapolis police shortly after the incident, but he was released a short time later. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office later concluded it could not prove the accusation and chose not to charge him.
Alejandro Alvarez, an attorney for Jingyao Liu, asked each potential juror what they would think if a woman alleging she was raped sued the man even though he wasn't charged criminally. Most said they would not hold it against the woman and that she had a right to sue if she believed she was victimized.
Alvarez noted that if the jury finds the defendant raped the woman, they could award compensatory damages for her pain and suffering and punitive damages for "very bad behavior." He asked them if it would rub them "the wrong way" to know the entire payout would go to her rather than a charity like the Red Cross. No one said it would.
Doolittle asked what the prospective jurors' attitudes were on China, Chinese men, or rich people; most were neutral. Peter Walsh, an attorney for JD.com, which is jointly sued with Liu, wanted to know if potential jurors had strong feelings about Chinese corporations, but hardly anyone did.
At one point Friday afternoon, Wahl announced he had received an email from a woman who had been seated on the jury but was expressing fear of the Chinese government and Liu's company. She asked if she could be assured of protection. After consulting with both sides, Wahl decided to dismiss her from the jury.