Cosby jury nearly filled as defense alleges discrimination

World

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — The jury that will weigh sexual assault charges against Bill Cosby was nearly filled out Wednesday, with three more jurors picked in quick succession after the comedian’s defense team accused prosecutors of racial discrimination for excluding a black woman from the panel.

Cosby’s lawyers alleged a member of the prosecution team made a disparaging remark after a black woman was removed from consideration as a prospective juror in the sexual assault retrial.

The defense lawyers didn’t reveal in open court what they alleged had been said, but sought to use the remark as evidence that prosecutors illegally removed the woman from the jury pool on the basis of her race.

Prosecutors pushed back, noting two blacks have been already been seated as jurors. The judge said he didn’t believe the prosecution had any “discriminatory intent” but halted the third day of jury selection while the defense challenged her removal.

Cosby’s lawyers eventually relented, and when jury selection resumed, two white men and a white woman were placed on the panel. That brought the total number picked over three days to 11 — one away from a full jury. Six alternates also have to be picked.

The panel so far consists of nine whites and two blacks. The jury has six men and five women.

The battle over the juror’s removal highlighted a vast racial disparity in the suburban Philadelphia jury pool that’s limiting the number of black people available for consideration.

Just 10 of 240 prospective jurors brought in on the first two days of jury selection were black, or about 4.2 percent. The black population in Montgomery County is about 9.6 percent black, according to the latest U.S. Census estimates.

The county says the names of people called for jury duty are selected randomly from a master list that combines voter registration records and driver’s license records.

Cosby lawyer Kathleen Bliss said in court that someone connected with the defense team heard someone on the prosecution side say “something that was discriminatory and repulsive” after the black woman was dismissed.

“By all appearances, she was a perfectly qualified juror who stated that she could be fair and impartial,” Bliss said, adding there was no explanation for the woman’s removal “other than her race.”

District Attorney Kevin Steele responded there was “absolutely no legitimacy” to the defense’s challenge, adding that prosecutors had no problem seating the two other black people who’ve appeared for individual questioning so far.

“Of the two opportunities we have had to take a member of the African-American community, we have done so,” Steele told Judge Steven O’Neill. “For them to now make the claim that the strike of an individual establishes some type of pattern is, I think unfortunately, not being done for this court but for the media behind us.”

Steele didn’t give a reason why the prosecution used one of its seven peremptory strikes on the woman, who had said she could ignore what she knows about the Cosby case and the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct in order to serve as an impartial …read more

Source:: Deseret News – World News

      

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