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Jury Cosby sex assault case includes 2 blacks

PITTSBURGH — The jury that will hear the sex assault case against Bill Cosby will include two blacks among its 12 members.

Prosecutors and the defense team on Wednesday also selected three of six alternates, and two of them are black.

Cosby’s lawyers had complained this week that prosecutors were trying to keep blacks off the jury with their seven strikes. The judge, though, found prosecutors had other valid reasons to strike two black women earlier this week. The jury makeup of 17 percent is higher than the 13 percent black population in Allegheny County.

Meanwhile, Judge Steven T. O’Neill removed a white male juror chosen Monday for undisclosed reasons. Lawyers then chose a white woman to replace him.

Cosby, the 79-year-old black actor-comedian once known as America’s Dad for his beloved portrayal of Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” is charged with drugging and molesting a Temple University women’s basketball team manager at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. He has called the encounter consensual.

Dozens of other women have made similar accusations against Cosby, 79, but the judge is allowing only one of them to testify. The jury from Pittsburgh will be sequestered nearly 300 miles from home.

Half of the jury pool being questioned Wednesday said they’ve formed an opinion on his guilt or innocence, while one knows Cosby or his family. They aren’t necessarily disqualified if they can convince the judge they can put that aside and focus on the evidence.

One-third said they were more likely to believe police testimony, nearly one-fourth had been convicted of a crime and nearly one-fifth said someone close to them had been sexually assaulted.

The defense raised concerns about the racial makeup of the jury Tuesday when only one black was seated among the first 11 jurors. The initial jury pool had 16 blacks among 100 people.

However, six were dismissed based on their initial questionnaires. Others were sent home after being questioned individually about various problems or conflicts. And several had relatives who were crime victims, one had an ill spouse and one man said he had no one to watch his dog.

Cosby, in an interview last week, said race could be a motivating factor in the accusations against him.