Opening statements slated for Monday morning were delayed after attorneys were summoned to the judge’s chambers to discuss a jury candidate, not selected for the trial, who claimed that a juror told him he believed that Cosby was guilty.
The juror will be interviewed by the court to determine if he can move forward as part of an impartial trial.
Cosby’s first trial last spring ended in a cliffhanger, with jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict after five days of tense deliberations on charges that the man who played Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” drugged and molested Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
After limiting the focus of the first trial, Judge O’Neill has been willing to let both sides push the retrial well beyond Constand’s allegations.
This time, O’Neill is letting prosecutors have five additional accusers testify — including model Janice Dickinson — as they attempt to show that Cosby made a habit of drugging and violating women. The judge allowed just one other accuser to take the stand last time. Over the past few years, about 60 women have come forward with allegations against Cosby dating to the 1960s.
“You’ve seen previews and coming attractions, but things have changed,” said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
“This one will be harder for the defense,” Levenson said. This time, Constand “is not alone, and there is strength in numbers.”
The comedian, who has said that the sexual encounter was consensual, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault — each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
His retrial is taking place in a radically changed and potentially more hostile environment. Months after the first trial, the #MeToo movement caught fire, raising awareness of sexual misconduct as it toppled Harvey Weinstein, Sen. Al Franken, Matt Lauer and other powerful men.
Nearly every potential juror questioned for the retrial said he or she had heard about #MeToo.
Kristen Houser of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center said that could help prosecutors overcome the skepticism some jurors had last time about Constand’s yearlong wait to report her allegations to the police.
“The #MeToo movement is amplifying what experts have been saying for decades: People are ashamed, they’re confused, they can’t believe somebody they trust would hurt them, and then they worry that others won’t believe them,” Houser said.