May 24, 2017 / 3:02 PM / 8 months ago

Jury selection for Bill Cosby's sex assault trial could be completed Wednesday

    By Kim Palmer
    PITTSBURGH, May 24 (Reuters) - The jury that will decide
whether to convict or acquit comedian Bill Cosby at his upcoming
sexual assault trial in the Philadelphia area is likely to be
chosen on Wednesday, even as the defense says prosecutors are
trying to exclude black people from the panel. 
    A fresh set of about 100 prospective jurors were called on
Wednesday in a Pittsburgh courtroom. Eleven of the 12 regular
jurors have already been selected, and all but one is white.
    Judge Steven O'Neill, who will try to seat the final juror
and six alternates on Wednesday, rejected the defense's
arguments, saying he would reconsider if lawyers for Cosby, who
is black, can provide statistical evidence.
    Cosby, 79, is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting
Andrea Constand, a former basketball coach at his Temple
University alma mater, at his suburban Philadelphia home in
    Dozens of other women have come forward in recent years to
accuse Cosby of similar sexual abuse, but Constand's allegations
are the only ones to result in criminal charges, in part because
many of the other claims stretch back decades. O'Neill will
allow one other accuser to testify at Cosby's trial.
    Cosby, whose reputation as America's favorite TV dad has
been irreparably sullied, has denied any wrongdoing and said
every sexual encounter was consensual.
    O'Neill has questioned potential jurors extensively on
issues like how familiar they are with the Cosby scandal and
whether they know victims of sexual assault.
    Both sides are permitted to strike a certain number of
prospective jurors without explanation. But when prosecutors on
Tuesday moved to disqualify a black woman, defense lawyers
objected, saying the jury, which has one black woman, was not
diverse enough to give Cosby a fair trial.
    Last week, Cosby suggested in a rare radio interview that he
has been treated worse during the scandal because he is black.
    Prosecutors said they struck the woman, a former police
detective who was once charged with falsifying overtime records,
because of her law enforcement background.
    Once selected, the jurors will be transported 300 miles (480
km) to Montgomery County near Philadelphia and sequestered
during the trial, which begins on June 5. 
    O'Neill agreed at the request of defense lawyers to pull
jurors from Pittsburgh rather than Montgomery County due to the
extensive media coverage of the case.

 (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
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