Bill Cosby's attorneys have accused prosecutors of trying to keep black jurors off the mostly white panel that will decide if he's guilty or innocent of sexual assault. At least two jurors said they've known someone who was the victim of sexual assault, and one of the alternates said a close family member was "sexually abused". All vowed to set their prior knowledge aside.
Two blacks are among the 12 people on the jury.
"It is a terrific jury made up of people from all demographics all over Allegheny County", he said.
With only one black person seated among the first 11 jurors, defense lawyers are accusing prosecutors of keeping blacks off the jury.
"I just want to be very specific about the wonderful people Allegheny County and I also want to also thank the sheriff's department, because they made everything very very smooth here", he said. Lastly, he attempted to deliver a message to his fans in Pittsburgh, where he has performed over the years before the allegations surfaced.
As Cosby left the courthouse Wednesday night, he expressed gratitude to "all of the people who have come to see my shows". Each side can strike seven people from the jury and three alternates. But he laughed aloud and applauded Wednesday afternoon, as one potential juror joked that he had been married for longer than some prison terms for murder. Previously undisclosed court records reveal that the man is David Weinberg, the founder of a Minnesota-based jury consulting firm called JuryScope.
"We believe this is systematic exclusion of African-Americans", McMonagle said. The trial is scheduled to begin June 5. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.More news: Man, 25, arrested over Manchester blast
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Whether the seven men and five women from Allegheny County are a jury of his peers remains up for debate. Most admitted they were familiar with the case, though the jurors selected all said they could be fair. They were lumped together because the judge was calling people based on their juror number and the seating position they took in the original jury pool room, and so numerous African Americans had clustered at the back.
"It didn't like stand out in my head", one selected juror said of her exposure to reports of the case. The defense cites legal experts who say Cosby will benefit from having blacks on the jury.
One-third said they were more likely to believe police testimony, almost one-fourth had been convicted of a crime, and almost one-fifth said someone close to them had been sexually assaulted.
Dozens of women have come forward in recent years to accuse Cosby of similar sexual abuse, but Constand's allegations are the only ones to result in criminal charges, in part because numerous other claims stretch back decades.
In a recent interview, asked about his daughter's contention that racism underlies the scandal, Cosby allowed that it "could be" a factor. He and his team have increasingly alleged that his race played some role in the accusations that have ensnared him.
"We believe it is paramount that there be a diverse jury and we believe that we can not get a diverse jury", Brian J. McMonagle, one of Cosby's lawyers, said, per The Times. Cosby's lawyers on Tuesday accused prosecutors of deliberately excluding black jurors, a charge that O'Neill rejected absent further evidence.
McMonagle challenged the prosecution's move, arguing that it was a violation of U.S. Supreme Court ruling Batson vs. Kentucky, which states prosecutors must find a race-neutral reason for keeping minorities off juries with a preemptive strike.