A former colleague of Bill Cosby accuser Andrea Constand who claims Constand once said she could fabricate a claim of sexual assault against a celebrity for money will be allowed to testify in the upcoming trial.
Judge Steven O’Neill filed the decision this morning, on the second day of jury selection in Cosby’s retrial. It is a major victory for the defense, which was not able to call her as a witness last year. Cosby attorney Tom Mesereau has said he even plans on bringing up the fabrication claim in his opening statement.
The defense, which plans on portraying Constand as someone trying to take advantage of Cosby for money, received other good news today when O’Neill ruled that the amount of the 2006 settlement between Cosby and Constand could be admitted as evidence.
The woman now allowed to testify, Marguerite Jackson, was a co-worker of Constand’s at Temple University. According to a filing from the defense, Jackson claims Constand once told her she could say a celebrity had assaulted her, “file charges and get money to go to school and open a business.” Cosby’s lawyers intend to use Jackson’s testimony to establish a motive for Constand and present her state of mind. The prosecution has argued Jackson’s testimony is irrelevant because no time frame has been established for when the comment was made or which celebrity she was referring to.
The news dropped just as jury selection began for a second day. After getting through a pool of the first 120 jurors, the defense and prosecution have agreed on seven. Two are middle-aged white men, one is a white man in his 20s, one is a middle-aged black woman, one is a black man in his 20s or 30s, and two are middle-aged white women.
O’Neill largely focused his questions on making sure the prospective jurors had not formed an opinion as to Cosby’s innocence or guilt and whether they could put aside details they’d already heard from the media. Cosby’s lawyers have typically discussed their decisions about potential jurors for longer than the prosecution.
Shortly before the middle-aged white men were selected, Cosby’s defense team accused the prosecution of trying to keep older white men off the jury and mounted a formal challenge.
“So you’re saying white males are in need of community protection?” O’Neill asked.
Bliss answered yes. And when O’Neill declined her challenge Bliss modified it to claim the prosecutors were discriminating against older males regardless of race, O’Neill dismissed it, too. Not much later, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele accused the defense of striking jurors because they were white women but didn’t mount a formal challenge.
The defense has used five of seven available strikes to dismiss jurors without cause the last two days. Four of them have been used on prospective jurors who appeared to be in their 20s or 30s. The prosecution has struck two white males in their 50s and 60s.
This afternoon another 120 potential jurors were introduced and interviewed as a group. Like the pool from Monday, they had been greatly exposed to the allegations. All but two potential jurors said they had heard of the case, and more than 80 said they had already made up their minds as to Cosby’s innocence or guilt.
O’Neill had originally estimated jury selection would take two days, but selection will go into at least a third day. The trial is scheduled to begin April 9.