Jury selection for Bill Cosby's sex assault trial nears completion
Bill Cosby departs the Montgomery County Courthouse after a preliminary hearing in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S. May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Matt Rourke/Pool/File Photo

The Pennsylvania jury that will decide comedian Bill Cosby's fate at his upcoming sexual assault trial was nearly complete on Wednesday, a day after defense lawyers claimed prosecutors were trying to exclude black people from the panel.

A fresh set of 93 prospective jurors answered four dozen questions in a Pittsburgh courtroom on Wednesday, as Judge Steven O'Neill sought to fill the 12th and last seat on the jury for the trial of the man once known as America's favorite TV dad.

O'Neill, who also plans to select six alternates, rejected the defense's racial claim, citing a lack of statistical evidence. The 11 selected jurors include only one black member.

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 other 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. O'Neill will allow one other accuser to testify at Cosby's trial.

Cosby has denied any wrongdoing. He was on hand for jury selection for the third straight day on Wednesday, wearing a dark sports coat and blue shirt.

As he did with an earlier pool, O'Neill questioned Wednesday's prospective jurors on their familiarity with the Cosby scandal. Under the law, jurors can have prior knowledge of the case as long as they are able to set aside any preconceived notions at trial.

More than three-quarters on Wednesday said they had heard of the case, with 45 saying they have already formed an opinion of Cosby's guilt or innocence.

The selection process grew heated on Tuesday when prosecutors moved to disqualify a black woman. Defense lawyers objected, saying the jury was not diverse enough to give Cosby a fair trial.

Last week, Cosby suggested in a radio interview that he has been treated worse during the scandal due to racism.

Prosecutors said their decision to strike the woman, a former police detective who sued the city after she was charged with corruption, was not motivated by race.

Once selected, the jurors will be sequestered 300 miles (480 km) away in Norristown, a Philadelphia suburb, where the trial is set to begin on June 5.

O'Neill granted a defense request to pull jurors from Pittsburgh due to the intense media coverage of the case.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tom Brown)