Jury set for Bill Cosby’s upcoming retrial, amid alleged discrimination clashes

Bill Cosby (right) is escorted into the Montgomery County Courthouse on March 30. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — The jury panel for Bill Cosby’s upcoming retrial was finalized on Wednesday, with at least one more day of jury selection to fill the six alternate seats.

The jurors — seven men and five women — will be sequestered this Sunday evening for the remainder of Cosby’s sexual assault retrial, which is expected to last at least a month. Of the 12 jurors, one woman and one man is Black. The rest of the jury panel is white — the same exact makeup of the jury for Cosby’s first trial in June that ended in a mistrial.

The jurors range from their mid-20s to late 50s, but no identifying information was released to protect their identities for the highly publicized trial.

Conflict filled much of jury selection on Wednesday, after Cosby’s defense team alleged the District Attorney’s office was discriminatory because it used one of its seven chances to strike a potential juror. The woman the DA’s office decided to strike was a Black woman and what Defense Attorney Kathleen Bliss later argued was “suspicious” of discrimination.

“She was the only African American left,” Bliss said. “[Cosby] is offended. The defendant, who faces the rest of his life in jail, is an African American.”

Of the 120 jurors questioned on Tuesday, there were four that were Black, Bliss said. The woman who was dismissed on Wednesday was the only Black person to be individually interviewed from that jury pool.

District Attorney Kevin Steele rebutted, stating his team did not strike the woman because of her race and can prove it because his team had “gladly taken both” of the two Black jurors.

“To somehow infer that this isn’t being done for a race-neutral reason is, quite frankly, ludicrous,” Steele said. “This is bad. The victims in the case… they come from different races. There is not a race component to this.”

While Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven T. O’Neill was reviewing the defense’s argument, a non-attorney member of the defense allegedly overheard a statement by a member of the prosecution that was “discriminatory and repulsive,” Bliss told the court.

“You can’t take the spots off the leopard,” Bliss told the court. “It was racial animus that can’t be undone.”

Bliss attempted to use this alleged statement to prove discrimination by the District Attorney’s team, but was not allowed by O’Neill to say it before the court.

The details of the alleged statement were not disclosed to the public.

The defense backed off after about an hour of behind-closed-doors conferences, but held onto its objection and will address it during trial. Tom Mesereau, Cosby’s lead attorney, said his team challenged the prosecution for striking down the only Black juror “in good faith” but because of time constraints would not move forward with the motion.

Each of the jurors that will take the bench on Monday for opening statements discussed their knowledge of the #MeToo Movement and other accusations of sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry. Three of the jurors said someone close to them had been sexually assaulted, but that it would not affect their ability to be an impartial juror.

Cosby is criminally charged with sexually assaulting and drugging Andrea Constand, a former Temple employee, at his Montgomery County home in 2004.

Gillian McGoldrick
can be reached at gillian.mcgoldrick@temple.edu Or you can follow Gillian on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

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