Cosby defence alleges discrimination in sex trial jury selection
The TV star denies drugging and molesting a woman at his Philadelphia home in 2004.
Bill Cosby’s lawyers have challenged the prosecution’s exclusion of a black woman from serving on the jury at his sexual assault retrial, alleging that the decision was made on the basis of her race.
Prosecutors hit back, noting that two black people have been already been seated on the panel that will sit in judgment of the 80-year-old comedian.
The judge said he did not believe the prosecution had any “discriminatory intent” but halted the third day of jury selection to consider the defence argument.
Cosby’s lawyers had appeared ready to strike at the first instance of prosecutors blocking a black juror, producing a legal brief that argued the move violated a 32-year-old Supreme Court ruling that prohibits prosecutions from excluding prospective jurors because of their race.
The defence made the same argument on Tuesday regarding the prosecution’s exclusion of several white men, but Judge Steven O’Neill rejected it.
The legal manoeuvring came as lawyers picked an eighth juror, a white woman who was at first hesitant to guarantee she could block out what she has read and seen about the Cosby case and the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct.
“I could try. I mean, it’s still in my head,” she explained, before eventually agreeing.
The jury so far consists of six whites and two blacks. Four jurors are men and four are women.
A dozen people were invited back for individual questioning on Wednesday as the prosecution and defence looked to fill the remaining spots.
A third batch of 120 potential jurors was also called to the courthouse in Philadelphia.
Cosby has pleaded not guilty to charges he drugged and molested Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
He says the encounter with the former Temple University women’s basketball administrator was consensual.
No major rulings are expected on Wednesday after the trial judge opened Tuesday’s session by issuing decisions favourable to a defence team that is trying to cast Cosby as the victim of a shakedown scheme involving false accusations of sexual assault.
Judge O’Neill granted the Cosby team’s request to call a woman who says Ms Constand talked about framing a celebrity before she lodged allegations against him in 2005.
The judge also ruled that jurors can hear how much Cosby paid Ms Constand in a 2006 civil settlement.
Judge O’Neill’s ruling allowing Marguerite Jackson to give evidence was at odds with his decision to block her from the first trial, which ended in a hung jury.
He did not explain his change of heart but issued one caveat, saying he could revisit her evidence after Ms Constand takes the stand.