After a weekend to ponder the allegedly improper actions of a juror selected to serve in the sexual assault retrial of Bill Cosby, the trial judge decided Monday afternoon to allow the individual to remain on the panel.
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Judge Steven T. O’Neill rendered his decision on the juror, a middle-aged White man, without public explanation — a sign that any appearance of fairness and impartiality on the judge’s part is out the window, Cosby’s backers argue.
“How can that be?” said Rhonda Traylor, an African-American woman who came to court Monday to support the embattled comedian. “The juror said he had already made up his mind that Cosby was guilty.”
Cosby, 80, is charged with drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004. His initial trial last year ended in a hung jury.
If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.
The scheduled start of the retrial Monday was delayed after the defense raised questions last week about Juror No. 11. After being chosen to serve, the man reportedly told other prospective jurors, “I just think [Cosby’s] guilty, so we can all be done and get out of here.”
O’Neill, who also oversaw the first trial, has repeatedly noted the need to be fair and impartial, though his rulings in the case have often been called into question.
He ruled that five other alleged victims, including former supermodel Janice Dickinson, could testify in the retrial. Last year, he denied prosecutors’ request to call Dickinson and other Cosby accusers.
Other controversial rulings include allowing Cosby’s deposition testimony; the hearsay testimony of Gianna Constand, the mother of alleged victim Andrea Constand; and denying several defense requests such as informing the jury that former District Attorney Bruce Castor declined to charge Cosby because of insufficient evidence and questions of Constand’s credibility.
The judge has also denied a defense request to show the jury a 2005 press release from Castor in which the former district attorney explains his decision not to prosecute Cosby.
O’Neill also declined to allow the defense to tell the jury about dueling lawsuits between Constand and Castor. Ironically, Castor’s lawsuit was dismissed by a judge Friday while Constand’s remains pending.
At the end of Monday, Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt, told reporters that the defense hopes that the jury can be “fair and impartial.”
Sporting a dark hair of twists, a pearl necklace and diamond studded earrings, Traylor, who works in a nearby mail sorting facility, said she came out Monday to counter planned protests against Cosby.
She said she was horrified by a protester who jumped a barrier, stripped off her shirt and bra and tried to attack Cosby outside the courthouse.
The protester, identified as Nicolle Rochelle, 39, of Little Falls, New Jersey, was charged with disorderly conduct after sheriff’s deputies wrestled her to the ground and into a nearby bush. She later contacted other protesters who placed her on a speaker phone, so reporters could hear.
“They said they’d drop the charges if I don’t come back to the courthouse,” Rochelle could be overheard saying. She added that she had appeared in episodes of the entertainer’s iconic sitcom “The Cosby Show” in the early 1990s and noted that Cosby had always been respectful of her, but her outburst was to “show support to the women.”
“This is what it’s come to,” Traylor said. “This isn’t about justice, it’s about demonstrations and putting on a show. And I believe things are only going to get worse because more people are beginning to realize that this judge and the prosecutors seem to be working together with the goal of taking Cosby down.”