Bill Cosby arrives at courthouse as jury selection begins in sexual assault trial

Trial consultant says prosecutors should be worried about fans as lawyers pick jurors in Pittsburgh before trial next month in suburban Philadelphia

Thirteen years after a Temple University basketball team manager went to its alumnus Bill Cosbys nearby home for career advice, her complaint that the TV star and comedian drugged and molested her that night will soon be a task for a Pennsylvania jury.

Lawyers this week hope to find a dozen jurors and six alternates willing to spend two weeks or more sequestered nearly 300 miles from home.

The case has attracted worldwide publicity the judge hopes to shield from jurors when the trial starts 5 June in suburban Philadelphia. Jurors are being chosen in Pittsburgh starting Monday. Cosby arrived at the courthouse Monday morning, holding on to the arm of an assistant and ignoring reporters questions.

You want to see if theyre a celebrity-conscious person if they read celebrity stuff, if they worship celebrity, the trial consultant Howard Varinsky said. Prosecutors have to be very worried about fans.

The lawyers also will be weighing a potential jurors race, gender, age, occupation and interests as the questioning gets under way. 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 a woman who was rebuffed when she first filed a police complaint, only to relive the case a decade later after Cosbys 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, Varinsky said. But on this case, youre going to see people that may lie to get on, and people who convince themselves that they can be fair, but they cant.

Whatever side youre on, you have to really weed through this, he said. Im 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.

Andrea Constand went to police in January 2005 to report that Cosby had sexually assaulted her a year earlier. She had left Temple the previous March and was back home in the Toronto area, setting aside a life in basketball to retrain as a massage therapist.

The then district attorney, Bruce Castor, declined to press charges. Constand then sued the comedian, negotiating a settlement after he gave sworn testimony about a string of sexual liaisons with young women. Cosby admitted to giving some of them pills or alcohol beforehand.

New prosecutors read that testimony and reopened the case in mid-2015. Cosby was arrested on 30 December 2015, days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired. He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $1m bail.

He told a talkshow 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 Ive written and things that I perform on stage.

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