Cosby Jury Pool Voices Hardship, Opinions on Guilt

Bill Cosby arrives at the courthouse in Pittsburgh on May 22, 2017, for jury selection in his sexual assault case. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (CN) – Finding an unbiased panel to hear the sexual-assault case against Bill Cosby in Pennsylvania may prove a lengthy pursuit, a survey of potential jurors showed Monday.

Of the 100 people pooled this morning, nearly one-third admitted to having already formed conceptions about Cosby’s guilt or innocence. Two-thirds of the potential jurors, all of whom are from the Pittsburgh area, also reported that they will be overburdened by travel if selected to serve at the trial, which is scheduled for June 5 in Montgomery County, approximately 300 miles away.

Though Cosby had pushed for a change of venue, the court agreed only to a new venue for jury selection. Attorneys are expected to screen 100 jurors a day for the trial, which is expected to last approximately two weeks.

Cosby, 79, is charged with drugging and assaulting a woman named Andrea Constand, the only one of Cosby’s dozens of accusers dating back to the 1970s whose criminal claims are not barred by the statute of limitations.

At the time of their 2004 sexual encounter at Cosby’s Cheltenham home, which Cosby says was consensual, Constand had been working at Temple University, where Cosby was a trustee.

In this combination of file photos, entertainer Bill Cosby pauses during an interview in Washington on Nov. 6, 2014, and Andrea Constand poses for a photo in Toronto on Aug. 1, 1987. The comedian went to Pittsburgh on May 22, 2017, as his attorneys vie with prosecutors to pick the jury that will decide if the actor drugged and molested Constand, a Temple University women’s basketball team manager, at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, left, and Ron Bull/Toronto Star/The Canadian Press via AP, right)

This morning, 35 of the 100 prospective jurors said they know a family member or loved one who has been the victim of a sexual offense.

Eligible jurors must commit to reserving any judgment about Cosby until after the trial – a daunting task, in light of Cosby’s celebrity and the case’s extensive media coverage.

Selected jurors will be transported out of Allegheny County and sequestered in the Philadelphia suburb, facing severe limitations on their access to cellphones, social media and other potentially influential sources.

Cosby, who contends that he is nearly blind in his old age, appeared outside the Pittsburgh courthouse this morning, leaning on his assistant’s arm.

Though the actor himself remained silent, defense attorney Brian McMonagle said Cosby is “holding up fine” and “looking forward” to getting the the trial underway.

Cosby is not expected to speak in court during the selection process.

Judge Steven O’Neill from the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas is overseeing the jury selection in Allegheny County.

Court officials are not expected to release the names of any jurors but say they hope to finalize their selection by the end of the week.

Associated Press reporters contributed to this report.

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