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Sexual harassment and assault

Bill Cosby’s trial judge allows testimony accusing victim of plotting to extort celebrities

Ruling says the comedian’s lawyers can call a witness who claims that an accuser talked about framing a celebrity before she made allegations about Cosby in 2005.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 2:34am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 7:15am

The judge in the sexual assault retrial of Bill Cosby gave his legal defence a huge boost on Tuesday, ruling that his lawyers can call a witness who says the accuser talked about framing a celebrity before she went to police in 2005 with allegations about the comedian.

Judge Steven O’Neill also helped the defence by ruling that jurors can hear how much Cosby paid accuser Andrea Constand in a 2006 civil settlement.

O’Neill ruled that Marguerite Jackson can take the witness stand after he blocked her from testifying at the first trial – which ended in a hung jury – saying her testimony would be hearsay.

Jackson’s testimony is crucial to a defence plan to portray Constand as a greedy liar. Constand’s lawyer has said Jackson isn’t telling the truth. The judge issued one caveat to the ruling, saying he could revisit his decision after Constand’s testimony.

O’Neill also hinted during a pretrial hearing last week that he could keep jurors from hearing Cosby’s prior testimony in a deposition about giving quaaludes to women before sex. He said he won’t rule on that until it is brought up at the retrial.

Tuesday’s rulings came ahead of the second day of jury selection in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Cosby swung his cane and said, “Good morning, good morning,” as he walked into the courtroom.

Will Bill Cosby’s jury hear him admit to drugging a 19-year-old with quaaludes?

Prosecutors and the defence chose a half-dozen jurors in rapid succession on Tuesday after picking only one on Monday. Five of the jurors are white and two are black. The panel so far has four men and three women.

All of the jurors seated on Tuesday say they have read media reports about Cosby’s case but haven’t formed an opinion about his guilt or innocence and can serve as fair and impartial jurors.

The Cosby jury will consist of 12 jurors and six alternates.

Cosby, 80, is charged with drugging and molesting a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. His first trial ended in a hung jury.

Cosby’s lawyers complained that prosecutors had improperly excluded two white men from serving on the jury on the basis of race and age, including one who said he thought many of the women coming forward in the #MeToo movement are “jumping on the bandwagon.”

Cosby’s lawyers had also used two strikes, both to block white women from serving. The first juror picked on Monday said he didn’t know anything about Cosby’s case. 

Bill Cosby heads to court in a bid to limit accusers from testifying

Nearly everyone else in the initial jury pool of 120 suburban Philadelphia residents indicated they knew about the charges against Cosby – including the two women picked Tuesday.

As a consequence, scores of potential jurors were sent home because they said they’d already formed an opinion about Cosby’s guilt or innocence.

That left just 27 people invited back for individual questioning Tuesday as prosecutors and Cosby’s lawyers worked to fill out the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates.

A second large group of potential jurors was also brought in Tuesday, in case the sides ran out of jurors from the first group.

Picking a jury has proven difficult after the #MeToo movement started toppling famous men 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 defence removed a total of 91 potential jurors before breaking on Monday.

For the retrial, O’Neill has ruled that jurors can hear from five additional accusers, giving prosecutors a chance to portray Cosby – the former TV star once revered as America’s Dad for his family sitcom The Cosby Show – as a serial predator.