Saturday, 21 July, 2018

Potential jurors in Bill Cosby retrial say they have already formed opinions

Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse before jury selection in his sexual assault retrial Getty Images
Rosie Leonard | 04 April, 2018, 02:03

Judge Steven O'Neill said the defence can call a witness who says Cosby's accuser talked about framing a celebrity before she lodged sexual abuse allegations against Cosby in 2005.

Together, the two rulings will bolster the defense's strategy to portray Constand as a liar who invented the incident to extort money from the comedian best known for his rose as Cliff Huxtable, the wise and witty dad on the long-running hit sitcom "The Cosby Show".

O'Neill didn't explain the reasoning behind his change of heart Tuesday but issued one caveat, saying he could revisit the issue of Jackson's testimony after Constand takes the stand at the retrial.

Last year's trial was mostly a he-said-she-said. Cosby swung his cane and said, "Good morning, good morning", as he walked into the courtroom.

As Cosby and his spokesman Andrew Wyatt entered the Montgomery County Courthouse on Tuesday morning, a reporter asked what the entertainer's thoughts were going into the day's happenings. Once the jury is assembled, they will be sequestered for the duration of the trial and deliberations, which could last a month.

Cosby's lawyers are upset because prosecutors have blocked two white men from serving on the jury, including one who said he thought numerous women coming forward in the #MeToo movement are "jumping on the bandwagon".

Jurors from Cosby's first trial, who were selected from Allegheny County, were unable to reach a unanimous verdict last summer after deliberating for more than 52 hours in six days, which resulted in a mistrial. Almost everyone else in the initial jury pool of 120 suburban Philadelphia residents indicated they knew about the charges against Cosby.

That left just 27 people invited back for individual questioning Tuesday as prosecutors and Cosby's lawyers worked to fill out the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates.

A big question during the jury-selection process this week has been the impact the #MeToo movement is having on potential jurors.

The jury questioning revealed some potential witnesses, including Dawn Staley, the SC women's basketball coach who was Ms Constand's boss at Temple, Temple board President Patrick O'Connor, who represented Cosby in Ms Constand's 2005-06 lawsuit against him, and Judge Risa Vetri Ferman, the former district attorney who charged Cosby just before she left office in 2015.

Montgomery County President Judge Thomas DelRicci said Tuesday he would schedule a hearing on the news media's legal challenge.

The 2006 settlement - kept confidential for more than a decade and as Cosby's first trial ended with a hung jury in June - will be disclosed publicly for the first time at Cosby's retrial on charges he drugged and molested Constand. He says the sexual encounter with Andrea Constand was consensual. His first trial on those charges previous year ended in a hung jury.

The question prompting so much response from prospective jurors today was whether they had heard of the #MeToo movement in the entertainment industry. The lone person who claimed ignorance on #MeToo was not invited back.

"There is no question that this is a very hard time to try someone who has been accused of sexual assault", said defense attorney and Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz. The defense team has already blocked several women from serving on the jury, according to ABC News, while the prosecution excluded two men, including one who had disparaging things to say about the #MeToo movement. She testified at the first trial that she did not know Jackson.

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