PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Bill Cosby‘s lawyers are making some special requests ahead of jury selection in Allegheny County.
They want written questionnaires to be mailed out, completed and returned before in-person juror questioning begins.
KDKA Legal Editor Julie Grant spoke with attorney Patrick Thomassey, who has had the experience of trying a criminal case so high-profile it warranted a change of venire.
Thomassey represented police Lt. Milton Mulholland, who was charged in the death of motorist Jonny Gammage. The case was tried in Allegheny County with jurors from Chester County.
“What we did was, we requested them to summon 400 people. We did send out the questionnaires ahead of time. We did it somewhat differently. We had them send the questionnaires to the 400 people who were going to be called in,” said Thomassey.
Pre-voir dire written questionnaires were sent out ahead of time to make sure the jury pool was large enough for in-person voir dire.
“You get up there and they have summoned 100 people in. You spend all day or two days with those people and you have one juror. Well, what do you do now?” said Thomassey.
Four-hundred people summoned meant picking the jury in a larger place than the Chester County Courthouse.
“The courthouse couldn’t accommodate that many people,” Thomassey said. “So they found this fire hall, which was near the courthouse, where everybody could sit and we selected the jury there.”
While Thomassey agrees pre-voir dire questionnaires can be helpful in a high-profile case, he thinks the amount being requested by Bill Cosby’s attorneys is too large.
“To float 1,500 to 2,000 questionnaires out there, in the general public, I think is counterproductive,” said Thomassey.
Thomassey thinks pre-voir dire questionnaires should only be sent to people who will be summoned for in-person voir dire.
“When you have these questionnaires floating around, then you have the chance of really poisoning the jury panel,” said Thomassey.
With a case like Bill Cosby’s, pretrial publicity is inevitable, but Thomassey says it’s important to keep in mind you can still find jurors who will be fair.
According to Thomassey, “Just because they know about a case, doesn’t mean they can’t be fair.”
The judge has not made a ruling on the defense request. No date has been determined for jury selection to begin. The trial is set for June 5.