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Jury Selection Begins In Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Trial


Think about this. Do you know anyone who is not aware that Bill Cosby faces sexual abuse allegations by dozens of women - probably not. And that points to the difficulty in seating a jury as Cosby's trial gets underway in Pittsburgh today. The case on trial centers on accusations by former Temple University basketball staff member Andrea Constand. She alleges Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 2004. Cosby says the sex was consensual.

Philadelphia Inquirer courts reporter Jeremy Roebuck is here now to help us sort it all out. Welcome to the program.

JEREMY ROEBUCK: Glad to be here.

CORNISH: I understand that there was a court appearance today. Can you talk about the atmosphere there and who appeared for this?

ROEBUCK: Well, they called the first batch of 125 potential jurors to the court today. And Cosby showed up early this morning with his usual entourage, which includes his two lawyers - defense lawyers Brian McMonagle and Angela Agrusa as well as spokesmen and several bodyguards that have accompanied him to all earlier court hearings.

And you know, outside the courthouse, there was the usual throng of media. But they're limiting how many reporters and how many media outlets can actually be in the courtroom during jury selection, so only about 10 reporters each day are allowed in.

CORNISH: So Cosby is formally facing three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He denies the charges, pleads innocent. And I understand that the jury selection is taking place in a different county from where the trial will be held next month. How come?

ROEBUCK: Well, Cosby's lawyers had complained that there was pervasive, you know, pretrial publicity in Montgomery County, Pa., which is a suburban county outside of Philadelphia where the charges were brought. You know, that argument kind of begs the question, where hasn't there been pervasive pretrial publicity in this case? It seems like the whole world knows about the allegations of all the women that have come forward. But the prosecution didn't oppose the motion to move the jury selection outside of the county, and the judge allowed it. So they landed in Pittsburgh.

CORNISH: While Bill Cosby has publicly at this point said that he does not plan to take the stand, will his accuser?

ROEBUCK: Yes, Andrea Constand is expected to take the stand, and her testimony is really crucial to this whole case. She had sued Bill Cosby back in 2005, and they had settled that lawsuit outside of court. So in all of the years since, she's been subject to a non-disclosure agreement she signed at the time that's prevented her really from coming forward and saying anything at the time. So this will be the first time anyone has heard her story directly from her own mouth.

CORNISH: Just how significant is this case, the first or only case where it has gone to trial against Bill Cosby?

ROEBUCK: It's significant in many ways, and it kind of depends on significant to whom exactly. I mean for Bill Cosby, this could definitively mean how he spends the last few years of his life. You know, his career hangs in the balance. But for many of his accusers, especially those whose allegations were too old to prosecute, you know, even though they may not be directly involved in this case, they're looking at this as, hey, this is our shot for justice through Andrea Constand.

CORNISH: So help us understand what's being asked of any potential juror here, not just that whether or not they've formed an opinion about his guilt, right? You're trying to rule out those folks. But what would this mean for their lives over the next couple months as this trial gets underway?

ROEBUCK: It will be a hardship no matter what. You know, the judge has said that he plans to sequester this jury. So they'll be driven across the state from Pittsburgh to Norristown, Pa., which is the suburb of Philadelphia where the trial will take place. They'll be kept, you know, in sequester for two, maybe three weeks depending on how long the trial lasts. And you know, in that time, they'll be cut off from their family, very limited media access. And then once it's all over, you know that the worldwide media will be interested in what they thought of all of the evidence and be interested to talk to them after the trial.

CORNISH: Jeremy Roebuck of the Philadelphia Inquirer - he's covering the case against Bill Cosby. Jury selection is underway in Pittsburgh today. Thanks so much, Jeremy.

ROEBUCK: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.