The judge in Cosby's retrial ruled that his lawyers can call a witness who says his accuser talked about framing a celebrity. He also ruled that jurors can hear how much Cosby paid the accuser in a 2006 civil settlement.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, US on April 3, 2018.
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives for jury selection for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, US on April 3, 2018. (Reuters)

The judge in Bill Cosby's sexual assault retrial gave his legal defence a huge boost on Tuesday, ruling his lawyers could call a witness who said the accuser talked about framing a celebrity before she went to police in 2005 with allegations about the comedian.

Judge Steven O'Neill also helped the defence case by ruling that jurors could hear how much Cosby paid accuser Andrea Constand in a 2006 civil settlement.

O'Neill ruled that Marguerite Jackson could take the witness stand after he blocked her from testifying at the first trial ‚ which ended in a hung jury ‚ saying her testimony would be hearsay.

Jackson's testimony was crucial to a defence plan to portray Constand as a greedy liar. Constand's lawyer has said Jackson was not telling the truth. The judge issued one caveat to the ruling, saying he could revisit his decision after Constand's testimony.

O'Neill also hinted during a pretrial hearing last week that he could keep jurors from hearing Cosby's prior testimony in a deposition about giving Quaaludes to women before sex. He said he wouldn't rule on that until it was brought up at the retrial.

Jury selection

Tuesday's rulings came ahead of the second day of jury selection in suburban Philadelphia. Cosby swung his cane and said, "Good morning, good morning," as he walked into the courtroom.

Just one juror was seated as jury selection began on Monday. Things moved at a far quicker pace on the opening day of Cosby's first trial last spring, when five jurors were selected.

The young man picked as a retrial juror said he did not know anything about Cosby's case. Nearly everyone else in the initial jury pool of 120 suburban Philadelphia residents indicated they knew about the charges against Cosby.

Three-quarters of them were sent home as they said they already had formed an opinion about Cosby's guilt or innocence.

That left just 27 people invited back for individual questioning on Tuesday as prosecutors and Cosby's lawyers work to fill 17 remaining jury spots. 

Another group of 120 potential jurors also was also being brought in, in case they did not make the cut.

Charges of sexual assault

Cosby is charged with drugging and sexually molesting Constand, a Temple University women's basketball administrator, at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He says the encounter was consensual.

Picking a jury has proven particularly tough after the #MeToo movement started toppling famous men in rapid succession months after Cosby's first trial ended in a deadlock.

All but one of the people in the initial group of potential jurors said they were aware of the #MeToo movement or the allegations it spurred against powerful entertainment figures. The lone person who claimed ignorance on #MeToo was not invited back.

Veteran lawyers and jury consultants say #MeToo could cut both ways for Cosby, making some potential jurors more hostile and others more likely to think men are being unfairly accused.

In all, prosecutors and the defence removed a total of 91 potential jurors before breaking on Monday.

Last year's trial was mostly a he-said-she-said. For the retrial, O'Neill has ruled jurors could hear from five additional accusers, giving prosecutors a chance to portray Cosby ‚ the former TV star once revered as "America's Dad" for his family sitcom "The Cosby Show," as a serial predator.

Source: AP