Cosby to get out-of-town jury; trial stays in Montco

     Bill Cosby arrives for a pre-trial hearing at the Montgomery County courthouse Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Norristown, Pa. Cosby is seeking a venue change for his criminal sex assault trial. (Bill Fraser/Bucks County Courier Times via AP, Pool)

    Bill Cosby arrives for a pre-trial hearing at the Montgomery County courthouse Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Norristown, Pa. Cosby is seeking a venue change for his criminal sex assault trial. (Bill Fraser/Bucks County Courier Times via AP, Pool)

    A Montgomery County judge has ordered that the jury in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial will be selected from outside of the county, a request made by Cosby’s legal team that prosecutors did not oppose.

    Cosby attorney Brian McMonagle told the judge Monday that media coverage and local political advertisements centered on Cosby have tainted possible local jurors from hearing the facts of the case objectively when the trial begins in June.

    “The message has been promoted that Bill Cosby is guilty, and Bill Cosby is a serial rapist,” McMonagle said, saying the media “have in fact demonized this man, and this is supposed to be a country where you’re innocent until proven guilty.”

    Judge Steven O’Neill denied a request made by Cosby’s lawyers that the trial should move to a different location.

    McMonagle said he thinks a fairer jury could be selected from one of Pennsylvania’s two largest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, rather than Montgomery County. 

    “I need it for sheer numbers,” McMonagle said. “We should not be made to suffer diversity.”

    It will ultimately be up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to determine the county from which jurors will be drawn.

    Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney M. Stewart Ryan responded that claiming the media has interfered with Cosby’s right to a fair trial is especially striking “in this day and age.”

    In filings, prosecutors said selecting a Montgomery County jury would still ensure a fair process. Still, they did not object to bringing in a panel from outside of the county out of an abundance of caution. Whatever it takes, Ryan told the judge, to finally get on with the trial.

    “Our request to you today is simple,” he said. “What we’ve sought since the defendant’s arrest is to come into the court of law, place facts in front of a jury of our peers and let them find truth.”

    McMonagle again raised the campaign of Kevin Steele to become Montgomery County district attorney, when he used Cosby as a “political pawn” against Steele’s opponent in the race, Bruce Castor. Steele ran television ads criticizing Castor for not prosecuting Cosby.

    O’Neill said the site of the jury selection will soon be announced. And, once that happens, the jury selection process for the June 5 trial will start. When the jurors are impaneled, O’Neill said, they will be sequestered to make sure they are influenced only by the facts in the case and not by outside sources.

    “To make sure it’s a fair and impartial trial,” O’Neill said. “Which both sides are entitled.”

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