11 people seated on Cosby jury; defense sees race bias

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Bill Cosby's lawyers accused Pennsylvania prosecutors of trying to systematically keep blacks off the jury Tuesday after prosecutors used their strikes to send two black women home.
 
Judge Steven O'Neill for now rejected the argument after prosecutors said the second woman was a former Pittsburgh detective who sued the city after she was arrested in a public scandal. They said the case raised doubts about her credibility.
 
O'Neill said he would revisit the issue if defense lawyer Brian McMonagle, who had accused prosecutors of "a systematic exclusion of African-Americans," offered any statistical evidence to back that up.

Of the 11 current jurors, one is black. The 100 people summoned to the Allegheny County courthouse for juror consideration so far have included 16 people of color. A new jury pool will be summoned Wednesday, when lawyers return to seek the final juror and six alternates.
 
The jurors selected Tuesday included a black woman who said she knew only "basic information" about the case, a young white man who initially expressed a tendency to believe police, and two people who said they don't read or watch the news.
 
The jury now consists of seven men and four women -- all but one of them white -- in a case that Cosby says may have racial undertones.

   Also Tuesday, a new 80-person panel was brought in, rather than 50 expected. Then, all 80 were dismissed.  A new panel will be brought in Wednesday.

   The rest of Tuesday will be spent individually questioning the jurors from Monday's panel.

   The lawyers are studying each person's race, sex, age, occupation and interests to try to guess their inherent sympathies, experts said. Cosby, in an interview last week, said he thinks race "could be" a motivating factor in the accusations against him. 
 
   "You're looking for what people already believe," said David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. "People don't take in new information and process it. They filter it into what they already know and think." 
 
   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 Judge Steven T. 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.
 
   The jurors' names, ages and occupations were being kept private. Two of the men selected said they or someone close to them had been sexually assaulted, but they insisted they could judge the case fairly. Sometimes that is not so easy, one law professor said. 
 
   "It's one thing to set aside intellectually what you know, but it's another to set it aside emotionally," said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor.

   The case against Cosby has attracted worldwide publicity that the judge hopes to shield from jurors during the trial. Cosby has said he does not expect to testify.
 
   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. 
 
   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.
 
   The first group of 100 potential jurors summoned Monday included 16 people of color. Forty-one of them will return Tuesday for further questioning. The judge will bring in more people as needed.
 
   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."

 

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