One juror selected, 11 to go in Cosby retrial, with signs #MeToo will figure prominently

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Updated: 5:45 p.m.

More than half of the 120 potential jurors in Bill Cosby’s criminal retrial say they’ve already formed an opinion about whether the 80-year-old comedian is guilty of sexual assault.

Prosecutors and the defense team agreed on one juror, a white man who appears to be in his 20s. He was one of the few who said he was not aware of the sexual assault allegations lodged against Cosby.

And all but one in the jury pool indicated that they are aware of the #MeToo movement that has caused scores of men to lose their jobs or reputations over sexual miscondect.

 

“Do you know about, or have any knowledge of, the #MeToo movement or allegations of sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry,” Judge Steven O’Neill asked the group.

As 119 of 120 raised the cards identifying them by number, it suggested that the current moment of women speaking out against abusive men will likely be playing a role in the courtroom as Cosby’s retrial unfolds.

During the selection process at the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown Monday, O’Neill asked potential jurors other questions about their ability to assess the case fairly. He asked whether they inherently distrust members of law enforcement or if they — or someone they know — has been sexually assaulted.

O’Neill followed up with a handful of them about the way they answered. In the end, about two-thirds of those who came to the courthouse as potential Cosby jurors were excused from the monthlong criminal proceeding.
Click here to read an explainer on the upcoming retrial.

There is still a long way to go. Prosecutors and Cosby’s defense team must choose another 11 jurors and up to six alternates. O’Neill said he hopes this can be done before next Monday, when the court has scheduled opening statements.

On Tuesday morning, O’Neill said, he will issue four key rulings on evidence, including whether Cosby’s under oath statement about obtaining quaaludes for women he wanted to have sex with can be heard by the jury. There will also be an order on whether accuser Andrea Constand’s 2006 civil settlement will be presented to the panel.

After that, defense lawyers and prosecutors will continue to sift through potential jurors, hoping to seat 12 who can take in all the evidence without preconceived notions.

Lawyer Lisa Blue, a jury expert who has written extensively about the process in criminal trials, said sussing out hidden motivations among jurors will be challenging.

“The problem in a case like this is, when jurors think they can be on a case that can put them on Oprah, they’re less likely to say, ‘You know, I’ve already made up my mind,’ ” Blue said.

O’Neill said the jury will be sequestered in “a very nice hotel” for the duration of the trial, which is scheduled to begin on April 9.

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