Seven men and five women, including two black jurors, will determine comedian Bill Cosby’s fate at his upcoming sexual assault trial in Pennsylvania, after claims from his lawyers that race played a factor in their selection.
Judge Steven O’Neill seated the 12th and final juror on Wednesday, along with three alternates. The judge is planning to add three more alternates, likely by Thursday.
Over three days of jury selection, O’Neill grilled around 200 prospective jurors on their familiarity with the case and whether they could set aside any preconceived notions about what will be one of the highest-profile celebrity trials in recent memory.
Cosby’s lawyers on Tuesday accused prosecutors of deliberately excluding black jurors from the panel, a charge that O’Neill rejected absent further evidence. Both sides were permitted to strike a certain number of jurors without explanation.
Prosecutors said they moved to disqualify a black woman on Tuesday because she was a former police detective once accused of falsifying overtime records, not because of her race.
Last week, Cosby suggested in a radio interview that he has been treated worse during the scandal due to racism.
Cosby, 79, is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former basketball coach at his Temple University alma mater, at his home in 2004.
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 many of the other claims stretch back decades.
Cosby has denied any wrongdoing, but the sheer number of allegations has destroyed the reputation he built as America’s favorite TV dad while starring in the sitcom “The Cosby Show.”
At times using a cane to walk, Cosby watched jury selection closely this week, conferring often with his defense team.
Much of the questioning of prospective jurors focused on what they had heard about the scandal. Under the law, jurors can have prior knowledge of the case as long as they base their verdict solely on the evidence at trial.
On Wednesday, more than three-quarters of a fresh set of 93 potential jurors called said they had heard of the case, while 45 said they had already formed an opinion of Cosby’s guilt or innocence.
The trial is set to begin on June 5 in Norristown, a Philadelphia suburb. The jurors were drawn from Pittsburgh, about 300 miles (480 km) away, at the defense’s request due to extensive pretrial media coverage. They will be transported to the Norristown area and sequestered for what is expected to be a two-week trial.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tom Brown)