With Jury selection about to begin for the June 5 sexual assault trial of entertainer Bill Cosby, Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill gave one last stern-sounding warning to members of the media and the general public, focusing on the security of the jury panel.
|Montco Judge Steven T. O'Neill/Submitted Photo|
“Reporters and members of the general public are reminded that any attempt by anyone, without leave of Court, to communicate with a member of the jury panel respecting the case, until the conclusion of the case, may be punished as a criminal contempt of court,” O’Neill wrote in a court order issued on Friday.
Jury selection begins Monday at the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh.
The judge added that during individual questioning of jurors, “the room may be cleared of reporters and members of the general public if the juror expresses a desire to answer a sensitive question in private.”
Indeed, the Cosby jury, a panel of 12 and six alternate jurors, likely will be subject to some of the tightest security that a jury has ever faced in Montgomery County. It is the most high-profile criminal trial to ever play out at the county courthouse in Norristown.
“Overall, our real focus is security, securing those jurors,” county Sheriff Sean P. Kilkenny told me during a recent interview. “We want to make it as safe and comfortable for the jurors. They are coming from Allegheny County, sacrificing everything being away from their families, and we want to make it as safe and comfortable for them as we can.”
|Montco Sheriff Sean Kilkenny/Submitted Photo|
Judge O’Neill, prosecutors and Cosby’s team of defense lawyers will be at the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh on Monday to begin selecting jurors.
The selection process was moved after defense lawyers argued that closer to home prospective jurors had been subjected to pervasive media coverage that made it impossible to select a fair jury in Montgomery County.
Once the jurors are selected, they will be transported to Montgomery County and sequestered at an area hotel for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last at least two weeks.
Cosby, 79, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault in connection with allegations he had inappropriate sexual contact with Andrea Constand, a former Temple University athletic department employee, at his Cheltenham home after plying her with blue pills and wine sometime between mid-January and mid-February 2004.
Once the trial begins, I’ll have daily reports for Digital First Media publications. You can also find breaking Cosby news by following @MontcoCourtNews on Twitter.