Bill Cosby’s lawyers scored a pair of rulings crucial to their strategy of casting the 80-year-old entertainer as the victim of a shakedown scheme involving false accusations of sexual assault, but they could not get the one prospective juror who seemed most willing to consider that idea.
The defense wanted a man who said he thought many of the women coming forward in the #MeToo movement were “jumping on the bandwagon,” but prosecutors used a challenge to send him home.
They agreed on six other jurors, bringing the two-day total to seven as jury selection headed into a third day Wednesday. They already have eliminated more than 200 potential jurors.
A dozen people were invited back for individual questioning Wednesday as the prosecution and defense look to fill 11 remaining spots. A third batch of 120 potential jurors was also called to the courthouse in suburban Philadelphia.
Cosby chatted with lawyer Kathleen Bliss in court, saying, “How are you this morning!” She replied, “bright eyed and bushy tailed.” He then feigned a glance behind her, as if looking for a tail.
As Wednesday’s session got underway, a judge gave The Associated Press and other media organizations more access to jury selection.
Media lawyers had challenged an arrangement that forced reporters to watch the group questioning part of the process on a closed-circuit feed from another courtroom. The camera showed the judge, prosecutors and defense lawyers, but not potential jurors who were being questioned as a group.
Montgomery County President Judge Thomas DelRicci agreed to move the camera to the back of the courtroom so the media could see the potential jurors. The judge refused to make room in the crowded courtroom for a pool reporter, but said if the jury pool did not fill the room to capacity, he’d allow reporters to attend live.
No major rulings were expected Wednesday after the trial judge opened Tuesday’s session by issuing decisions favorable to a defense team that tried to force him off the case last month over his wife’s work with sexual assault victims.
Judge Steven O’Neill granted the Cosby’ team’s request to call a woman who says accuser Andrea Constand talked about framing a celebrity before she lodged allegations against him in 2005. The judge also ruled that jurors can hear how much Cosby paid Constand in a 2006 civil settlement.
Jury selection moved briskly on Tuesday until late in the day, when a second pool of potential jurors proved more opinionated and less willing to serve than the panel that produced the first seven.
Two-thirds of the group said they already had formed an opinion about Cosby’s guilt or innocence, and all but about 20 people begged off the case, saying it would be a hardship to serve.
Two of the people who made the cut said they had no knowledge of the Cosby case.
Five of the jurors picked so far are white and two are black, with four men and three women.
Cosby has pleaded not guilty to charges he drugged and molested Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He says the encounter with the former Temple University women’s basketball administrator was consensual.
O’Neill’s ruling allowing Marguerite Jackson to testify was at odds with his decision to block her from the first trial, which ended in a hung jury. O’Neill did not explain his change of heart but issued one caveat, saying he could revisit her testimony after Constand takes the stand.
During the first trial, O’Neill ruled that Jackson’s testimony would be hearsay after Constand testified she did not know the woman. Since then, prosecutors have told Cosby’s lawyers that Constand had modified her statement to acknowledge she “recalls a Margo.”
Jackson, a longtime Temple University official, has said that she and Constand worked closely together, had been friends and had shared hotel rooms several times. Jackson says Constand once commented to her about setting up a “high-profile person” and filing a lawsuit.
Constand’s lawyer has said Jackson is not telling the truth.
Jackson’s availability as a witness for Cosby could be crucial to a defense plan to attack Constand’s credibility.
O’Neill hinted at a pretrial hearing last week that he might keep jurors from hearing Cosby’s testimony from a deposition in Constand’s lawsuit about giving quaaludes to women before sex — another potential boon to the defense. He said he would not rule on that until it is brought up at the retrial.
O’Neill previously gave a boost to the prosecution, ruling they can call five additional accusers in a bid to portray Cosby — the former TV star once revered as “America’s Dad” for his family sitcom “The Cosby Show” — as a serial predator.
The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.