A jury of seven men and five women – 10 of them white, two black – was sitting on Wednesday to decide the fate of Bill Cosby in the biggest celebratory process of the #MeToo era, after a day marked by accusations of discrimination on racial discrimination .
Cosby’s lawyers claimed that a member of the prosecution team made a derogatory remark after a black woman was removed from the assumption to join the jury in the new eighty-year-old comedian’s trial on charges of sexual assault.
The defense did not reveal in court what they say was said, but tried to use observation as evidence that prosecutors illegally removed the woman from the jury pool based on her race.
Prosecutors rejected, noting that two black jurors had been seated, and the judge said he did not believe the accusation had “discriminatory intentions.”
Cosby’s lawyers eventually gave in, and once the selection of the jury resumed, three whites and a white woman were quickly put on the panel. This brought the total number selected in three days to 12: a complete jury. Six substitutes must also be chosen.
The racial and gender composition of this jury is identical to the one that failed to reach a verdict in the process of last year.
The battle for the removal of the black juror highlighted a vast racial disparity in the suburban pool of the jurisdiction of Philadelphia, which limited the number of black people available for consideration.
Only 10 of the approximately 240 potential jurors interviewed in the first three days of jury selection were black, or about 4.2%. The black population in Montgomery County is about 9.6% black, according to the most recent US census estimates.
The county says that the names of people called by jury are randomly selected from a main list that combines voter registration registries and driving license registers.
On Wednesday, attorney Cosby Kathleen Bliss told the court that someone who connected to the defense team heard someone on the prosecution side say “something that was discriminatory and repulsive” after the black woman was fired.
“From all appearances, she was a perfectly qualified jury who said she could be fair and impartial,” Bliss said, adding that there was no explanation for the removal of the woman “other than her race”.
District Attorney Kevin Steele replied that “there is absolutely no legitimacy” in the defense challenge, adding that the prosecutors had no trouble finding the other two black people who had appeared for the individual questions.
“Between the two opportunities we have had of taking a member of the African-American community, we did it,” Steele told Judge Steven O’Neill. “For them now to say that the strike of an individual establishes some kind of scheme is, unfortunately, not done for this court, but for the media behind us”.
Steele did not give a reason why the prosecution used one of his seven peremptory strikes against the woman, who said he could ignore what he knew about the Cosby case and the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct to serve as an impartial juror . He also said that being a victim of domestic violence does not paint the way you need it.
Cosby’s lawyers had appeared ready to strike the first instance of prosecutors blocking a black juror, producing a legal note claiming that the move violated a 32-year Supreme Court ruling that prohibits prosecutors from excluding potential jurors from because of their race. The defense had made the same argument Tuesday as regards the exclusion of the charge of several whites, but O’Neill rejected him.
Cosby, who is black, is accused of drugging and harassing Andrea Constand in his suburb of Philadelphia at home in 2004. He says the meeting with the former female basketball administrator at Temple University was consensual.
Prosecutors are planning to call five more accusers in an attempt to portray Cosby – the former TV star once revered as “America’s Dad” for her family sitcom “The Cosby Show” – as a serial predator.
The PA does not generally identify people who claim to be victims of sexual violence unless they grant permission, which Constand did.
With the start of the Wednesday session, a judge gave The Associated Press and other media organizations more access to jury selection.
The media attorneys had challenged an agreement that forced journalists to watch the group interrogate part of the process on a closed-circuit feed from another court. The camera showed the judge, prosecutors and defense lawyers, but not the potential jurors who were questioned in groups. Montgomery County President, Judge Thomas DelRicci, agreed to move the camera to the back of the court so the media could see potential jurors.