April 4 (UPI) — Attorneys in the retrial of Bill Cosby selected a jury Wednesday, ending a three-day search that included allegations of racial discrimination.
The final jury includes seven men and five women from Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County, a suburban area north of Philadelphia.
Judge Steven T. O’Neill called the jury-selection process “long and arduous” as attorneys attempted to select jurors who hadn’t formed opinions about Cosby’s case and weren’t influenced by the #MeToo movement of identifying sexual harassers in Hollywood.
Three of the jurors selected said they or a family member had been the victim of a sexual assault, but vowed it wouldn’t affect their ability to be fair and impartial during the trial.
Defense attorney Kathleen Bliss objected Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele’s use of a peremptory strike — a chance given to each side to remove a juror without explanation — to dismiss a black woman as a potential juror. Bliss said the decision was racially motivated.
“She passed every single stage as a fair and impartial juror,” Bliss said. “There is thus no other explanation other than for race.”
Bliss also told the court a prosecutor had been overheard making “discriminatory and repulsive” comments, which she said reflected “racial animus.”
Steele denied Bliss’ allegations as “simply ludicrous.”
“We have had two available African Americans for jury selection in this case,” Steele said. “We had gladly taken both of those seemingly very responsible people, and they are on our jury panel.”
Of the 12 seated jurors, two are black and 10 are white.
Attorneys must still select six alternates, in case one of the jurors is removed, and all 18 will be sequestered beginning Sunday.
Cosby is charged with drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand, a former friend and Temple University employee, in 2004. The previous trial ended with a hung jury, which was unable to reach a verdict after six days of deliberation.
Opening arguments are scheduled to begin Monday.