More than half of the 120 potential jurors being questioned ahead of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial say they have already formed an opinion about the comedian’s guilt or innocence.
Cosby is charged with drugging and sexually molesting a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
He says the sexual encounter was consensual and his first trial ended in a hung jury.
Jury selection for the retrial got under way on Monday, with all but 10 potential jurors indicating they have knowledge about the case.
All but one potential juror say they have heard or seen something about the #MeToo movement exposing sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry.
The judge told jurors the trial will last about a month.
It (#MeToo) is a huge challenge for the defence, but it could also provide an avenue and open up the topicRichard Gabriel, jury consultant
Experts say the #MeToo movement that has felled major figures in news and entertainment could cut both ways for the comedian, making some potential jurors more hostile toward him and others more likely to think men are being unfairly accused.
“We really have had this explosion of awareness since that last trial and it has changed the entire environment,” said Richard Gabriel, a jury consultant who has worked on more than 1,000 trials.
“It is a huge challenge for the defence, but it could also provide an avenue and open up the topic.”
The former TV star appeared in a suburban Philadelphia courthouse as jury selection got under way.
About 125 prospective jurors filled out a standard questionnaire, answering questions about their background and their ability to be impartial.
Prosecutors and the defence pored over the questionnaires as they began whittling the jury pool down to the 12 who will decide Cosby’s fate.
The #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct has toppled famous men in rapid succession, among them Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey and Democratic US Senator Al Franken.
The first juror was later selected.
The man picked indicated he had no knowledge of the case and would not let what he has heard about the #MeToo movement influence his ability to be impartial.