UPDATED with details of afternoon session: A jury of seven men and five women, 10 of them white and two African American, have been seated for Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial that begins next week. The gender and racial composition match the same demographics as Cosby’s original trial last year, which ended in a hung jury.
The 12th juror, a white man in his 20s or 30s, was seated late Wednesday at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, PA. He was joined today by another young white man, a middle-aged white man, and two middle-aged white women. Four of the 12 jurors appear to be in their 20s and 30s, while the remainder appear to be middle-aged. Six alternate jurors still need to be seated, and Judge Steven O’Neill expects their selections to be completed Thursday.
Both black jurors were selected Tuesday — one a middle-aged woman and the other a man who looked to be in his 20s or 30s.
When a black woman was dismissed by the prosecution with a peremptory challenge this morning, Cosby’s lawyers mounted an ensuing challenge that her dismissal was based on race. Interviews with jurors were delayed for nearly three hours. After O’Neill talked things over with the attorneys and said a separate hearing may be required, Cosby’s attorneys relented and agreed to move forward with the selection.
The woman was the only African American to be individually interviewed from the second pool of 120 prospective jurors. “She’s the only African American left,” Bliss said. “The defendant, who faces the rest of his life in jail, is an African American.”
When Bliss made her argument, citing previous case laws, she concluded by saying that after the juror had been dismissed, a member of the defense team heard a member of the prosecution make a remark indicative of racism. O’Neill didn’t let Bliss disclose the remark in front of the media and public assembled in the courtroom.
Bliss insisted the remark needed to be on the record and used as evidence for the defense’s claim the prosecution struck the black woman who was a potential juror because of her race. “You can’t take spots off the leopard,” Bliss said. “It was racial animus that can’t be undone.”
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said the defense’s argument was “not being done for the court but for the media behind us.”
Because the defense agreed to let jury selection continue, O’Neill didn’t rule on the challenge.
On Tuesday, Cosby’s attorneys challenged the prosecution’s dismissal of two older white men based on their age, gender and race. O’Neill threw that challenge out.
Although Montgomery County’s population is 10% black, the jury pool has not reflected the demographics of this Philadelphia suburb. Of 240 potential jurors brought into the courtroom for group interviews this week, just 10 have been black. Seven were dismissed after agreement between the defense and prosecution, three were interviewed as individuals, and two were selected for the jury.
The attorneys dealt with a juror pool that had been exposed to years of Cosby accusations in the media. All of the selected jurors said they had not made any determinations as to Cosby’s guilt or innocence and could set aside whatever previous information they had gleaned. The first juror chosen, a white man in his 20s, indicated he had not even heard of the allegations against Cosby.
Despite the media saturation and the previous trial, it took about the same amount of time to find jurors as last year, when 12 jurors and six alternates were chosen over three days in Allegheny County.
Cosby is being tried on charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004. O’Neill declared a mistrial last summer after jurors failed to reach a verdict in the case. The retrial is scheduled to begin Monday.