Racial Bias Allegations Dominate Bill Cosby Jury Selection

All but two of the 12 jurors are white.

A lawyer for Bill Cosby accused the prosecution on Tuesday of trying to bar black people from serving on the jury for the entertainer’s upcoming sexual assault trial in Pennsylvania. 

Prosecutors struck two black women from the jury in Pittsburgh. As of Wednesday, two of the 12 jurors are African-American, while the rest are white.

Defense attorney Brian McMonagle said the prosecution has displayed “a systematic exclusion of African-Americans,” according to The Associated Press. 

Judge Steven O’Neill disagreed with the defense, putting the issue to rest for now, though he said he’d revisit it if the defense provided statistical evidence

The prosecution said it had dismissed one black woman from the jury because she was a disgruntled ex-police detective who’d sued the city. Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Stewart Ryan said race was not a factor in nixing her, according to NBC News.

Jury selection concluded on Wednesday after the final juror and six alternates were selected for the trial, set to begin on June 5. The 12-person jury includes seven men and five women. Five men and one woman comprise the alternate group. 

Cosby, 79,  is charged with aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and molesting former college basketball team manager Andrea Constand in his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He has pleaded not guilty, and claimed that he gave her Benadryl before a consensual sexual encounter. 

At least 58 women have accused the pioneering comedian of sexual misdeeds, including rape, but only Constand’s account led to criminal charges against Cosby. 

Cosby previously settled a lawsuit with Constand over the incident. He said during a deposition in the civil case that he had acquired quaaludes to give to women he sexually desired.

Some parts of the deposition, including statements about quaaludes, may be presented as evidence, per an earlier decision by O’Neill. 

In a victory for defense, O’Neill previously decided that only one other accuser may testify about her experience with the former television star. The district attorney’s office had sought to call up to 12 of Cosby’s accusers as witnesses. 

In a recent interview, Cosby suggested that racism “could be” a factor in the accusations against him. His accusers include white and black women. 

The trial will be held in Norristown, outside of Philadelphia, but the jury is being drawn from Pittsburgh and the surrounding area. The defense said it was seeking a source of prospective jurors who hadn’t been saturated by media coverage of the case. 

Jurors will be sequestered for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last a few weeks. 

This story has been updated with the selection of an additional juror and alternates on Wednesday.