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June 26, 2017

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Defense raises race bias in Cosby jury selection process

PITTSBURGH — With just one black person seated among the first 11 jurors chosen for Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial, defense lawyers are crying foul and accusing prosecutors of trying to systematically keep blacks off the jury.

The lawyers return to court on Wednesday in Pittsburgh to pick a 12th juror and six alternates.

For now, Judge Steven O'Neill has rejected the race bias argument.

Prosecutors said race was not a factor in their decision to strike two black women from the panel this week. They said one was a former Pittsburgh police detective who sued the city after she was arrested in a public scandal.

O'Neill pledged to revisit the issue if defense lawyer Brian McMonagle, who had accused prosecutors of "a systematic exclusion of African-Americans," presented statistical evidence to back that up.

The 100 people summoned to the Allegheny County courthouse for juror consideration so far have included 16 people of color. A new jury pool will be summoned on Wednesday.

The jurors selected on Tuesday included a black woman who said she knew only "basic information" about the case, a young white man who initially expressed a tendency to believe police and two people who said they don't read or watch the news.

The jury now consists of seven men and four women — all but one of them white— in a case that Cosby has said may have racial undertones.

The 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.

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