Bill Cosby retrial judge rejects media request on jury pool

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Bill Cosby, center, arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Monday, April 2, 2018, in Norristown, Pa. Corey Perrine, AP

Norristown, Pa. — The judge in Bill Cosby’s sex assault retrial has rejected a news media request to let two pool reporters into the courtroom where potential jurors are being questioned as a group.

Judge Steven O’Neill said Monday that Cosby’s lawyers objected to the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association’s request because they feared it could hurt their ability to find a fair and impartial jury.

Reporters are watching the proceedings on a closed-circuit feed from an adjacent courtroom. The camera shows the judge, prosecutors and defense lawyers, but not potential jurors.

O’Neill says individual questioning of potential jurors will take place directly in front of reporters.

Cosby is charged with drugging and molesting a former Temple University women’s basketball official at his home in 2004. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors and the defense began picking a jury for Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial in a #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.”

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 #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.

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