PITTSBURGH (CN) – Adding a second black juror to the mix Wednesday, attorneys finalized the 12-person panel that will hear sexual-assault charges against Bill Cosby early next month.
The trial of Cosby, 79, is expected to kick off near Philadelphia on June 5. Though dozens of women have come forward in recent years with assault claims against the comedian dating back to the 1970s, the accuser in Pennsylvania’s case is the only woman whose criminal claims are not barred by the statute of limitations.
Andrea Constand, who worked at Temple University while Cosby was a trustee at the school, told Montgomery County authorities that Cosby drugged and raped her at his home in Cheltenham. Cosby maintains that his 2004 sexual encounter with Andrea Constand was consensual.
Judge Steven O’Neill refused to relocate the trial itself but agreed to conduct jury selection for 300 miles away in Allegheny County.
In addition finalizing the 12-person jury Wednesday, attorneys selected three alternate jurors this afternoon. O’Neill said he hopes to have the remaining three alternates seated by the end of the day.
Just two jurors on the panel are black — a female chosen Tuesday, and male selected this afternoon. Both the black man and the white woman chosen Wednesday look to be in their 30s.
The gender breakdown of the jury is seven men and five women.
Earlier this afternoon, the court agreed to remove a white man in his 40s who was selected for the jury but not yet sworn in. Judge O’Neill has not yet expounded upon the “deeply personal reasons” that prompted the move.
Nearly half of the voters attorneys considered Wednesday for service in Bill Cosby’s upcoming assault trial owned up to having already formed opinions about the case.
Apart from the 45 of 93 who said they have already formed opinions in the case, 75 said they are familiar with the state’s case against the once-beloved actor and comedian.
Seventeen potential jurors questioned by attorneys this morning said either they themselves or a close friend or family member have been a victim of sexual abuse. Another 17 said they cannot form an unbiased opinion as to Cosby’s guilt or innocence based on the nature of the allegations.
One resident surveyed today admitted to personally knowing Cosby or a member of his family.
Prosecutors drew criticism this week for excusing two black jurors. One of them, a former Pittsburgh police officer, had been involved in civil suit against the city after she was implicated but ultimately cleared in a timesheet scandal.
The jury pool is approximately 88 percent white, consistent with Allegheny County census bureau data for 2015.
Though Cosby has sat beside his attorneys for the past three days of jury selection, the entertainer has declined to issue any comment.
Cosby’s publicist said that his attorneys plan to make a statement to the press this afternoon.