NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) – From Buzzfeed to the New York Times, a coalition of news organizations fought in court Tuesday to learn the names of the jurors who deadlocked on Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault trial.
“We’re entitled to the names … so we can understand who these people are,” said Eli Segal, an attorney for the news groups with the firm Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia.
The hearing this afternoon in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas came on the heels of a June 17 mistrial declared by Judge Steven O’Neill when Cosby’s jury reported five days after the trial that they could not reach a verdict.
With prosecutors hoping to retry Cosby in the next four months, O’Neill explained that the release of the last jury’s names causes him “great trepidation.”
“Once these names are out, the media will use them,” O’Neill warned, adding that he still wants to have a “fair and impartial trial” for Cosby.
Segal explained that the public wants to “understand who these people are,” calling the trial a lesson in civics. “Openness facilitates fairness,” the attorney added.
O’Neill meanwhile noted that keeping the jury’s names secret is one of the few areas of common ground for the prosecution and the defense.
“These parties don’t agree on much, but agree on this,” O’Neill said. “They want a fair and impartial trial.”
District Attorney Kevin Steele noted that any jurors who want to can come forward of their own volition, but there are some “fundamental rights of privacy” to consider before deciding to release a list of names.
“These people performed their civic duty, and now should not have people knocking on their doors,” Steele said.
David Mischak, a defense attorney for Cosby with the firm McMonagle, Perri, McHugh & Mischak, warned about the chilling effect, saying release of the jurors names would release “a great inquisition.”
O’Neill plans to release a ruling on the matter Wednesday.
“We’re trying to move as fast as we can,” he said.
Recounting the “many attempts” by the media to interview Cosby’s last jury, the judge also noted that some jurors reported being followed.
He called the worldwide media coverage of Cosby’s trial earlier this month unprecedented for the court.
“Over 130 media credentials were issued,” he said.
Other news outlets pushing to learn the names of the jurors include the Philadelphia News Network, ABC, the Associated Press, CNN, CBS, The Washington Post and Time/
In addition to Segal, the groups are represented by Paul Safier with Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz.
The effort came after one of the jurors selected as an alternate posted his contact information on social media over the weekend.