Bill Cosby trial judge delivers 2 big victories to defense
NORRISTOWN, Pa. – The judge in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial delivered two major victories to the comedian’s legal defense on Tuesday, allowing a woman who says his accuser was out for money to testify and for the jury to hear the amount of the settlement she received.
Judge Steven O’Neill said that Marguerite Jackson’s testimony is subject to further rulings at trial, specifically following testimony from accuser Andrea Constand.
At the first trial, O’Neill barred Jackson from testifying after Constand denied knowing her. Since then, prosecutors told Cosby’s lawyers that Constand modified her statement to admit she “recalls a Margo.”
Constand’s attorney says that Jackson is “not telling the truth.”
O’Neill previously helped prosecutor’s case by allowing five additional accusers to testify against Cosby.
He also said Tuesday that he’ll wait until trial, if needed, to rule on up to 14 witnesses prosecutors want to call to support the testimony of the five additional accusers who are taking the stand. Cosby’s lawyers had objected to the witnesses, saying they’d need to postpone the trial to prepare their testimony
Just one juror was seated as jury selection began on Monday. Things moved at a far slower pace than on the opening day of Cosby’s first trial last spring, when five jurors were selected.
The young man picked as a retrial juror said he did not know anything about Cosby’s case.
He was an outlier among the 120 suburban Philadelphia residents summoned as potential jurors in the case.
Three-quarters of them were sent home for cause – the majority because they said they already have formed an opinion about Cosby’s guilt or innocence.
That leaves just 28 people invited back for individual questioning on Tuesday as prosecutors and Cosby’s lawyers work to fill 17 remaining jury spots. Another group of 120 potential jurors also is being brought in, in case they do not make the cut.
O’Neill said the jury will be sequestered at a hotel and warned that the retrial could last about a month.
Cosby has pleaded not guilty to charges he drugged and sexually molested Constand, a Temple University women’s basketball administrator, at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He says the encounter was consensual.
The former TV star once revered as “America’s Dad” for his family sitcom “The Cosby Show” wore a dark suit with a trench coat draped across his legs and a thin wooden cane in his hand as O’Neill questioned potential jurors.
Picking a jury has proven particularly tough after the #MeToo movement started toppling famous men in rapid succession months after Cosby’s first trial ended in a deadlock.
All but one of the people in the initial group of potential jurors said they were aware of the #MeToo movement or the allegations it spurred against powerful entertainment figures. The lone person who claimed ignorance on #MeToo was not invited back.
Veteran lawyers and jury consultants say #MeToo could cut both ways for Cosby, making some potential jurors more hostile and others more likely to think men are being unfairly accused.
In all, prosecutors and the defense removed a total of 91 potential jurors before breaking on Monday.
But six other people who echoed the lone selected juror in saying they had no knowledge of Cosby’s case are being brought in for individual questioning.
Last year’s trial was mostly a he-said-she-said. For the retrial, O’Neill has ruled jurors can hear from five additional accusers, giving prosecutors a chance to portray Cosby 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.