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Cosby jury pool: Majority voice hardship, 1/3 have opinions

Associated Press logo Associated Press 5/22/2017 By JOE MANDAK, MARYCLAIRE DALE and DAKE KANG, Associated Press
Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) © The Associated Press Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — One-third of the potential jurors questioned in Bill Cosby's sex assault case Monday said they've formed opinions about his guilt or innocence while the majority said it would be difficult to spend several weeks sequestered across the state.

Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) © The Associated Press Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

And 35 of the 100 people questioned said they or a family member or close friend has been the victim of a sexual assault. Jurors are being selected this week in Pittsburgh for the trial that begins June 5 in suburban Philadelphia.

Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (Nate Smallwood/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review via AP) © The Associated Press Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (Nate Smallwood/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review via AP)

The case against the once wildly popular actor-comedian has attracted worldwide publicity that the judge hopes to shield from jurors during the trial.

Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (Nate Smallwood/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review via AP) © The Associated Press Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (Nate Smallwood/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review via AP)
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The initial questioning Monday suggested it may take some time to find an unbiased jury. The judge has not yet ruled on anyone's qualification to serve, but was expected to question people individually throughout the afternoon.

FILE – In this combination of file photos, entertainer Bill Cosby pauses during an interview in Washington on Nov. 6, 2014, and Andrea Constand poses for a photo in Toronto on Aug. 1, 1987. A crucial phase of Cosby's sex assault trial starts Monday, May 22, 2017, when lawyers gather in Pittsburgh to pick the jury that will decide if the actor drugged and molested Constand, a Temple University women's basketball team manager, at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, left, and Ron Bull/Toronto Star/The Canadian Press via AP, right) © The Associated Press FILE – In this combination of file photos, entertainer Bill Cosby pauses during an interview in Washington on Nov. 6, 2014, and Andrea Constand poses for a photo in Toronto on Aug. 1, 1987. A crucial phase of Cosby's sex assault trial starts Monday, May 22, 2017, when lawyers gather in Pittsburgh to pick the jury that will decide if the actor drugged and molested Constand, a Temple University women's basketball team manager, at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, left, and Ron Bull/Toronto Star/The Canadian Press via AP, right)

"No one should make an effort to be on this jury, and no one should make an effort to not be on this jury," Judge Steven T. O'Neill told the group.

Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (Nate Smallwood/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review via AP) © The Associated Press Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (Nate Smallwood/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review via AP)

Sixty-seven people said it would be a hardship to spend up to three weeks sequestered near Philadelphia next month.

Bill Cosby, center, arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh, Pa. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) © The Associated Press Bill Cosby, center, arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh, Pa. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Cosby entered the courtroom in Pittsburgh on the arm of an aide, using a cane and carrying a box of tissues. He showed little emotion sitting beside three of his lawyers at the defense table.

Bill Cosby, center, arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) © The Associated Press Bill Cosby, center, arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Lead lawyer Brian McMonagle had earlier said he hoped an unbiased jury could be found fairly quickly this week. He said Cosby was "looking forward" to getting the process started. Cosby has said he does not expect to testify.

Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (Nate Smallwood/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review via AP) © The Associated Press Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (Nate Smallwood/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review via AP)

The trial will take place in Norristown in Montgomery County, where Cosby had invited Andrea Constand to his home in 2004. She said she went seeking career advice as she considered leaving her job managing the women's basketball team at Temple University. She said Cosby gave her wine and pills that put her in a stupor before molesting her on his couch.

Bill Cosby, center, arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) © The Associated Press Bill Cosby, center, arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault case at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The case is set for trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Constand was 30 and dating a woman at the time, while Cosby was 66 and long married. Cosby in sworn testimony has said he put his hand down her pants, but said she did not protest.

The judge plans to bring 100 potential jurors to the courthouse each day this week until a dozen jurors and six alternates are found. The first group included 53 women and 47 men, and 16 people of color.

In answering questions, 67 said they had a family, financial or other hardship that would make it difficult to serve; 34 had formed an opinion about Cosby's guilt or innocence; 25 said they would have trouble being fair because of the nature of the charges; and 14 said they had a preconceived notion that would prevent them from deciding the case fairly.

"He's holding up fine, he's looking forward to it ... and we're looking forward to getting a trial," McMonagle said as he entered the courthouse.

Asked if he thought they could get an impartial jury, he said, "We sure hope so."

The lawyers also will be weighing a potential juror's race, gender, age, occupation and interests. They hope to tease out whether they relate more to the beloved actor who brought the world Fat Albert, Dr. Cliff Huxtable and bemused quips about family and fatherhood, or Constand, who was rebuffed when she first filed a police complaint, only to have the case resurface a decade later after Cosby's testimony from her lawsuit became public and dozens of other accusers came forward to support her.

"In a normal case, juries are all banging the door to get out, bringing up every hardship in the world," trial consultant Howard Varinsky said. "But on this case, you're going to see people that may lie to get on, and people who convince themselves that they can be fair, but they can't.

"Whatever side you're on, you have to really weed through this," he said. "I'm looking (as a consultant) for every single micro-expression, each body movement."

Jurors will be dismissed "for cause" if they admit to strong views about the case or persuade the judge they have family, health or financial situations that prevent them from serving. After that, each side can strike seven people during jury selection and three more when they choose alternates.

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.

He told a talk show host this week that he hopes to beat back the charges and resume his career. "I want people to understand my work as an artist and a performer," he said. "I want to get back to the laughter and the enjoyment of things that I've written and things that I perform on stage."

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Dale reported for this story from Philadelphia.

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