Jury selection begins Monday in Pennsylvania for the sexual assault trial of comedian Bill Cosby, who last month revealed in an exclusive Black Press interview that he’s blind.
The 79-year-old entertainer has pleaded not guilty to charges that he assaulted former Temple University athlete Andrea Constand at his home not far from the school more than a decade ago.
Earlier, a judge ruled that jurors would be selected from a pool in Allegheny County, approximately 308 miles from Norristown, where the trial will take place.
Cosby’s attorneys had argued for the jury pool to be selected from outside of Montgomery County as a means to which the star could receive a fair trial.
Testimony should begin on June 5.
Twelve jurors and six alternates will be chosen from a pool of about 125, Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Steven T. O’Neill ruled. The selection hearing will take place in Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in Pittsburgh.
O’Neill ruled that potential jurors will be given a standard set of questions, not an extended questionnaire that defense lawyers had requested, to gauge objectivity.
Cosby’s lawyers wanted as many as 2,000 prospective jurors to receive detailed questionnaires in the mail before jury selection.
O’Neill said during an earlier hearing that questionnaires mailed to peoples’ homes would quickly end up on social media, and he expressed concern that family members or friends could influence the answers.
He said that instead of a prescreening, the standard 16-question form would be mailed to potential jurors and followed up by individual questioning in court.
Cosby is accused of drugging and molesting Constand in 2004. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Jurors will be sequestered in a hotel during the trial.
During an exclusive interview with organizations from Black Press last month, Cosby declined to talk specifically about the case, but in responding to a question about the arts the comedian managed to reiterate his position that the public should judge for themselves based on real evidence and not innuendo.
“The history about African-Americans is a history of the United States; but the true histories, not the propaganda that is standard in our nation’s history books,” Cosby said. “The great writer, James Baldwin, said, ‘If you lie about me, then you lie about yourself.’ There is something about someone saying, ‘I didn’t know that,’ that could cause a change in that person’s thinking,” he said.
Supporters of the legend have argued that greed, extortion and a campaign to distort his legacy by alleged racists have destroyed Cosby’s career.
At the center of the alleged greed are the women who sued Cosby for defamation after his legal team denied their claims, and Cosby backers point out that courts have recently sided with the entertainer in many of those cases.
Extortion, they said, comes courtesy of attorney Gloria Allred, who in 2014 called on Cosby to put $100 million in a fund for the alleged victims and to let a panel of retired judges determine the truth about their claims, many of which allegedly happened in the 1960s and 1970s.
Allred has denied those claims.