US film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives for his trial at the New York criminal court with his attorney Donna Rotunno this week. File picture: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

New York - The judge in Harvey Weinstein's sex crimes trial on Thursday rejected a request from the defence team to recuse himself over what they called "prejudicial and inflammatory comments" to their client.

In a Wednesday letter to Judge James Burke, the lawyers complained he had "admonished" Weinstein on Tuesday for using his mobile phone.

Burke had told the disgraced Hollywood mogul: "Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life, by texting in violation of an order?"

Weinstein, 67, is on trial in New York on five counts of rape and sexual assault. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

His lawyers claimed Burke's comments "reflect the court's animus towards the defendant."

Burke said on Thursday he was merely trying to scare Weinstein and was not suggesting he was going to give him a life sentence.

Thursday marked the third day of jury selection, a process that could take anywhere from several days to several weeks due to the high level of public interest in the case.

On Tuesday and Wednesday most jurors were dismissed, with many of them saying they could not be impartial. Thursday's pre-screening session ended early after the lead prosecutor had a medical emergency.

More than two years have passed since US media detailed numerous allegations against Weinstein, triggering a cascade of accusations against other powerful men and the spread of the #MeToo movement.

More than 80 women, including A-list actresses, have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. He has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.