Bill Cosby’s legal team wants to know who’s behind the curtain, pulling the lever — and the wool — over the eyes of potential African-American jurors.
On Tuesday, in explosive open court arguments, the comedian’s lawyers asked the judge to accept a black female juror whom the prosecution had eliminated because they said she couldn’t be trusted due to a prior incident the woman had been involved in while a detective with the Pittsburgh Police Department.
“We believe this is systematic exclusion of African-Americans,” defense lawyer Brian McMonagle complained, citing a legal term known as a Batson challenge, which prohibits the exclusion of a juror on the basis of race or gender.
McMonagle said prosecutors had used challenges to remove two black women while accepting white jurors who gave similar answers to questions.
“We believe it is of paramount importance we seat a diverse jury,” McMonagle said, adding that it would be a “potential horrible problem” if the jury sitting in judgment of the black comedian accused of drugging and molesting a white woman was racially one-sided.
Assistant District Attorney Stewart Ryan denied race was the reason for striking the woman from the pool of potential jurors. He said she had been a Pittsburgh police detective who was charged with falsifying time sheets in a department scandal; the charges were dismissed and she later filed a lawsuit against the city, according to NBC.
Her background, Ryan said, sparked concern that she could have a “bias against governmental entities.”
The attorneys and the judge retreated to a back room after the arguments. When they emerged, the judge said he had decided to keep the woman on the anonymous jury because the prosecution had offered a “race-neutral” explanation, though he encouraged the defense to present a statistical analysis of the prosecution’s jury decisions to bolster its claim of whitewashing.
However, the defense arguments appear to hold some water. Of the 100 potential jurors “randomly selected,” only about 10 were black and most of them were given juror numbers that forced them toward the back of the pool, forcing them to sit all day Monday and not be called for vetting until the end of Tuesday’s proceedings.
The second day of jury selection ended with 11 people seated, 10 of them white and one of them black. There are seven men and four women. Seven black jurors have been questioned and dismissed for causes such as hardship, having a fixed opinion and being a sexual assault victim.
Cosby, 79, said in a recent interview that he believes racism “could be” at the root of accusations of sexual misconduct that have piled up in the past two years. His daughters and attorneys have been more forceful in saying race has played a role in his legal troubles.
“Someone is pulling the strings, someone is behind the curtain,” said a courtroom watcher. “This process seems to have been rigged from the start and it seems the prosecution has formulated questions that are designed to prevent African-Americans from being on this jury.”