A pool of one hundred potential jurors was questioned in Pittsburgh on Monday in an attempt to assess their ability and willingness to serve on the trial of former comedian Bill Cosby. The formerly beloved comedian and actor is awaiting trial for allegations of sexual and indecent assault that came to public attention in 2014. Since the initial accusations, more than 50 women have come forward alleging varying degrees of sexual abuse.
Judge Steven T. O’Neill, who will preside over Cosby’s case, expressed concerns about finding an unbiased jury and shielding them from the publicity surrounding the trial. “No one should make an effort to be on this jury, and no one should make an effort to not be on this jury,” O’Neill announced to the candidates. More than one-third of those questioned claimed that they had already formed opinions regarding Cosby’s guilt or innocence, while a large majority voiced concerns about being sequestered from their jobs and families for a trial that could last close to a month. Another 35 of the 100 questioned claimed that they had close friends or relatives who had been victims of sexual assault, information that often recuses jurors from serving.
The trial, which is currently set to begin on June 5 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, the location where Cosby allegedly assaulted Andrea Constand in 2004, will be a special challenge for his lawyers. Taking stock of the race, gender, age, interests and occupation of each juror, Cosby’s defense team is hoping to find not just an impartial jury, but also determine whether any of those being questioned could be seen as sympathetic to the former comedy legend. Trial consultant Howard Varinksy explained the unique difficulties of selecting jurors for high profile cases like Cosby’s. “In a normal case, juries are all banging the door to get out, bringing up every hardship in the world,” Varinsky said. “But on this case, you’re going to see people that may lie to get on, and people who convince themselves that they can be fair, but they can’t.”
Judge O’Neill plans to bring 100 potential jurors each day to the courthouse in order to undergo questioning. In order to go forward, 12 permanent jurors and six alternates must be selected. Cosby’s lead lawyer, Brian McMonagle, said that Cosby and his legal team were “looking forward” to the trial. Watch the video below. The 79-year-old Cosby, who claims to be blind, was seen on Monday arriving at court wearing dark glasses and walking with a cane. He was surrounded by the media and ignored questions from reporters, allowing his lawyer to answer instead.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.