11 People Now Seated On Jury In Bill Cosby’s Sex Assault Case

PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Bill Cosby‘s lawyers accused Pennsylvania prosecutors of trying to “systematically” keep blacks off the jury Tuesday after prosecutors used their strikes to keep two black women off the panel.

Eleven jurors have been seated.

Juror number 12 was almost seated, but the Commonwealth used one of their peremptory strikes to remove her. The defense made what’s called a Batson challenge, alleging the Commonwealth was engaging in a systematic pattern of striking black prospective jurors.

At that point, the Commonwealth had struck two black women.

Defense counsel told the court, Cosby came to Allegheny County to seek refuge and find a jury of his peers. He said they came to Allegheny County wanting diversity on their jury and accused the Commonwealth of stopping that from happening.

So far, one black woman is on the jury. The other seven men and three women are white.

The Commonwealth offered a race-neutral explanation for striking the second black woman. He said she was a former police detective and has been involved in a legal matter.

The judge accepted that race-neutral explanation and said the peremptory strike stands. However, the judge said the record would remain open. He suggested that they may have to go through the numbers of minority men and women in the jury panel.

It seems possible this issue could be revisited at the start of day three, where a new pool of 100 people will be brought in.

The actor-comedian once known as America’s Dad for his beloved portrayal of Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” is charged with drugging and molesting a Temple University women’s basketball team manager at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. He has called the encounter consensual.

Dozens of other women have made similar accusations against Cosby, 79, but O’Neill is allowing only one of them to testify at the June 5 trial in suburban Philadelphia. The jury from Pittsburgh will be sequestered nearly 300 miles from home.

Cosby, in an interview last week, said race could be a motivating factor in the accusations against him. Cosby became the first black actor to star in a network TV show in 1965 but has alienated some younger blacks by criticizing their clothes, music and lifestyle. Black comedian Hannibal Burress seemingly inspired more accusers to go public after he called Cosby a rapist onstage.

“Race plays a role in every trial, but it shouldn’t eclipse … the evidence,” Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson said. “This case is frankly more about gender, celebrity, how women are treated (and) Bill Cosby’s credibility. But race may take a more focused perspective because the defense has (raised it) recently.”

Cosby recently broke two years of silence when he gave a brief interview with a black news service, while one daughter issued a public statement saying she thinks race played a role in the accusations.

The jurors’ names, ages and occupations were being kept private. Two men selected Monday said they or someone close to them had been sexually assaulted, but they insisted they could judge the case fairly.

One-third of the initial jury pool questioned Monday said they had an opinion about Cosby’s guilt or innocence, and an equal number said they or someone close to them had been sexually assaulted.

The trial will take place in Norristown in Montgomery County, where Cosby had invited Andrea Constand to his home in 2004. Constand said she went seeking career advice. She said Cosby gave her wine and pills that put her in a stupor before molesting her on his couch.

Constand was 30 and dating a woman at the time, while Cosby was 66 and long married to wife Camille. Cosby in sworn testimony has said he put his hand down Constand’s pants, but said she did not protest.

Cosby has said he does not expect to testify.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are the victims of sexual assault unless they come forward, as Constand has done.

Cosby was arrested Dec. 30, 2015, days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired. He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $1 million bail.

He told a talk show host last week that he hopes to beat back the charges and resume his career.

“I want to get back to the laughter and the enjoyment of things that I’ve written and things that I perform on stage.”

Join The Conversation On The KDKA Facebook Page
Stay Up To Date, Follow KDKA On Twitter

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More from Julie Grant

More From CBS Pittsburgh

Get The All New CBS Local App
KDKA Weather App
Find Cheaper Gas

Watch & Listen LIVE