Cosby jury selection underway as #MeToo casts a shadow
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Prosecutors and the defense began picking a jury for Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial Monday in a (hash)MeToo era that could make the task more difficult.
Experts say the movement that has felled major figures in news and entertainment could cut both ways for the comedian, making some potential jurors more hostile toward him and others more likely to think men are being unfairly accused.
“We really have had this explosion of awareness since that last trial and it has changed the entire environment,” said Richard Gabriel, a jury consultant who has worked on more than 1,000 trials. “It is a huge challenge for the defense, but it could also provide an avenue and open up the topic.”
The former TV star appeared in a suburban Philadelphia courthouse Monday morning as jury selection got underway. About 125 prospective jurors filled out a standard questionnaire, answering questions about their background and their ability to be impartial. Prosecutors and the defense pored over the questionnaires as they began whittling the jury pool down to the 12 who will decide Cosby’s fate.
A jury deadlocked at Cosby’s first trial last June, months before the (hash)MeToo movement against sexual misconduct started toppling famous men in rapid succession, among them Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey and Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken.
Veteran lawyers and jury consultants say (hash)MeToo will make jury selection more complex and raise the stakes even higher.
The defense is likely to use attitudes toward the movement to weed out jurors.
“There may be a juror who says, ‘I don’t have an opinion about Cosby, but the (hash)MeToo is very important to me,”’ said Melissa M. Gomez, a jury expert and author of the book “Jury Trials Outside In.” ‘’That person is still very dangerous to the defense.”
Cosby, 80, is charged with drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University athletics administrator, at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
Last year’s trial was mostly a case of he-said-she-said. For the retrial, a judge has ruled that jurors can hear from five additional accusers, giving prosecutors a chance to portray the man once known as “America’s Dad” as a serial predator.