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.
The 48-question juror survey asks if the potential jurors have an opinion about Cosby’s guilt but not if they were fans of his comedy routines, top-ranked TV shows or family values speeches.
The jurors selected earlier this week included a black woman who said she knew only “basic information” about the case, a white man who initially expressed a tendency to believe police and two people who said they don’t read or watch the news.
The trial will take place in Montgomery County, where Cosby had invited Andrea Constand to his home in 2004. Constand said she went seeking career advice. She said Cosby gave her wine and pills that put her in a stupor before molesting her on his couch.
Constand was 30 and dating a woman at the time, while Cosby was 66 and long married to wife Camille. Cosby in sworn testimony has said he put his hand down Constand’s pants, but said she did not protest.
Cosby has said he does not expect to testify.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are the victims of sexual assault unless they come forward, as Constand has done.
Cosby was arrested Dec. 30, 2015, days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired. He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $1 million bail.