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3 white men, 2 white woman seated for Cosby jury

Written by Joe Mandak, MaryClaire Dale, and Dake Kang/Associated Press | May 22, 2017 3:01 PM
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Photo by AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Bill Cosby arrives for a pretrial hearing in his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Norristown, Pa.

(Philadelphia) -- Three men and two women have been chosen to serve on the sequestered jury that will hear Bill Cosby's sex assault case.

Two of the men say they or someone close to them has been a sexual assault victim, but both say they can be fair.

All of the jurors selected so far are white in a case that Cosby believes may have racial overtones.

Jury selection will resume Tuesday in Pittsburgh. The trial will start June 5 near Philadelphia. A panel of 12 jurors and six alternates is needed.

The defense has used four of its seven strikes as it tries to exclude people they fear would be unsympathetic to Cosby.

One-third of the 100 people questioned Monday say someone close to them is a sexual assault victim.

An earlier story appears below.

(Pittsburgh) -- The panel that will decide Bill Cosby's fate in his sex assault trial began to take shape Monday with the selection of three jurors, two white men and one white woman.

The search for 12 jurors and six alternates was expected to take several days. Experts believe lawyers on both sides will be considering race, sex, age, occupation and interests of potential jurors.

The actor-comedian once known as America's Dad for his portrayal of Dr. Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show" is charged with drugging and molesting a Temple University women's basketball team manager at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. He calls their encounter consensual.

Dozens of other women have also made similar accusations against Cosby, and the judge is allowing only one of them to testify at the June 5 trial in suburban Philadelphia. The jury from Pittsburgh will be sequestered nearly 300 miles from home.

Cosby has said he thinks race "could be" a motivating factor in the accusations lodged against him.

The jurors' names, ages and occupations were being kept private from reporters. Two of the jurors selected Monday appear to be in their 50s, while one man appears to be in his 20s or early 30s.

Both men say they or someone close to them has been sexually assaulted, but they insisted they could set that aside to fairly judge the case.

One-third of the potential jurors questioned Monday said they've formed opinions about Cosby's guilt or innocence, while the majority said it would be difficult to spend several weeks sequestered across the state.And 35 of the 100 people questioned said they or a family member or close friend has been the victim of a sexual assault.

The case against Cosby has attracted worldwide publicity that the judge hopes to shield from jurors during the trial.

"No one should make an effort to be on this jury, and no one should make an effort to not be on this jury," Judge Steven T. O'Neill told the group.

Cosby, who entered the courtroom on the arm of an aide, using a cane and carrying a box of tissues, conferred with his three lawyers at the defense table.

Lead lawyer Brian McMonagle had earlier said he hoped an unbiased jury could be found fairly quickly. He said Cosby was "looking forward" to getting the process started. Cosby has said he does not expect to testify.

The defense had used four strikes to keep someone off the jury by Monday afternoon, while the prosecution had not used any. Each side can strike seven people from the jury and three alternates.

The trial will take place in Norristown in Montgomery County, where Cosby had invited Andrea Constand to his home in 2004. She said she went seeking career advice as she considered leaving her job managing the women's basketball team at Temple University. She said Cosby gave her wine and pills that put her in a stupor before molesting her on his couch.

Constand was 30 and dating a woman at the time, while Cosby was 66 and long married to wife Camille. Cosby in sworn testimony has said he put his hand down Constand's pants, but said she did not protest.

The Associated Press doesn't typically identify people who say they are the victims of sexual assault unless they come forward, as Constand has done.

The judge plans to bring 100 potential jurors to the courthouse each day this week until a panel is selected. The first group consisted of 53 women and 47 men, with 16 people of color.

Cosby was arrested Dec. 30, 2015, days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired. He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $1 million bail.

He told a talk show host last week that he hopes to beat back the charges and resume his career.

"I want people to understand my work as an artist and a performer," he said. "I want to get back to the laughter and the enjoyment of things that I've written and things that I perform on stage."

___
Dale reported from Philadelphia.

An earlier story appears below.

(Philadelphia) -- Two men and one woman have been picked for the jury that will hear Bill Cosby's sex assault case.

Both men say they or someone close to them has been a sexual assault victim, but both say they can be fair.

Cosby is charged with drugging and molesting a Temple University employee in 2004. Dozens of other women have accused him of similar conduct.

All three jurors selected in Pittsburgh are white. Cosby has said he thinks race "could be" a motivating factor in the accusations lodged against him.

Two jurors appear to be in their 50s. One man appears to be in his 20s or early 30s.

The defense has used four of its seven strikes. The trial starts next month near Philadelphia, and the jurors will be sequestered.

An earlier story appears below.

(Pittsburgh) -- One-third of the potential jurors questioned in Bill Cosby's sex assault case Monday said they've formed opinions about his guilt or innocence while the majority said it would be difficult to spend several weeks sequestered across the state.

And 35 of the 100 people questioned said they or a family member or close friend has been the victim of a sexual assault. Jurors are being selected this week in Pittsburgh for the trial that begins June 5 in suburban Philadelphia.

The case against the once wildly popular actor-comedian has attracted worldwide publicity that the judge hopes to shield from jurors during the trial.

The initial questioning Monday suggested it may take some time to find an unbiased jury. The judge has not yet ruled on anyone's qualification to serve, but was expected to question people individually throughout the afternoon.

"No one should make an effort to be on this jury, and no one should make an effort to not be on this jury," Judge Steven T. O'Neill told the group.

Sixty-seven people said it would be a hardship to spend up to three weeks sequestered near Philadelphia next month.

Cosby entered the courtroom in Pittsburgh on the arm of an aide, using a cane and carrying a box of tissues. He showed little emotion sitting beside three of his lawyers at the defense table.

Lead lawyer Brian McMonagle had earlier said he hoped an unbiased jury could be found fairly quickly this week. He said Cosby was "looking forward" to getting the process started. Cosby has said he does not expect to testify.

The trial will take place in Norristown in Montgomery County, where Cosby had invited Andrea Constand to his home in 2004. She said she went seeking career advice as she considered leaving her job managing the women's basketball team at Temple University. She said Cosby gave her wine and pills that put her in a stupor before molesting her on his couch.

Constand was 30 and dating a woman at the time, while Cosby was 66 and long married to wife Camille. Cosby in sworn testimony has said he put his hand down Constand's pants, but said she did not protest.

The judge plans to bring 100 potential jurors to the courthouse each day this week until a dozen jurors and six alternates are found. The first group consisted of 53 women and 47 men, with 16 people of color.

In answering questions, 67 said they had a family, financial or other hardship that would make it difficult to serve; 34 had formed an opinion about Cosby's guilt or innocence; 25 said they would have trouble being fair because of the nature of the charges; and 14 said they had a preconceived notion that would prevent them from deciding the case fairly.

"He's holding up fine, he's looking forward to it ... and we're looking forward to getting a trial," McMonagle said as he entered the courthouse.

The lawyers also will be weighing a potential juror's race, gender, age, occupation and interests. They hope to tease out whether they relate more to the beloved actor who brought the world Fat Albert, Dr. Cliff Huxtable and bemused quips about family and fatherhood, or to Constand, who was rebuffed when she first filed a police complaint, only to have the case resurface a decade later after Cosby's testimony from her lawsuit became public and dozens of other accusers came forward to support her.

"In a normal case, juries are all banging the door to get out, bringing up every hardship in the world," trial consultant Howard Varinsky said. "But on this case, you're going to see people that may lie to get on, and people who convince themselves that they can be fair, but they can't.

"Whatever side you're on, you have to really weed through this," he said. "I'm looking (as a consultant) for every single micro-expression, each body movement."

Jurors will be dismissed "for cause" if they admit to strong views about the case or persuade the judge they have family, health or financial situations that prevent them from serving. After that, each side can strike seven people during jury selection and three more when they choose alternates.

Cosby was arrested Dec. 30, 2015, days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired. He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $1 million bail.

He told a talk show host this week that he hopes to beat back the charges and resume his career. "I want people to understand my work as an artist and a performer," he said. "I want to get back to the laughter and the enjoyment of things that I've written and things that I perform on stage."

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