Just days before jury selection, Bill Cosby’s legal team appeared to anger the judge in the comedian’s sexual assault retrial. The events Thursday could be a sign of desperation after the judge previously swatted down several key defense motions.
Judge Steven T. O’Neill became emotional in refusing to remove himself from the trial after Cosby’s lead attorney Thomas Mesereau argued that the judge’s wife—a social worker at a sexual trauma center—could influence his decisions, the Washington Post reported.
The judge’s wife, Deborah V. O’Neill, has described herself as an “activist and advocate for sexual assault victims,” Meserau noted to O’Neill.
Judge O’Neil defended his wife’s achievements and rejected the suggestion that she could influence his rulings. However, he dismissed the defense’s motion on the legal technicality that it was filed too late, which suggests the potential of an opposite decision had Cosby’s lawyers acted quicker.
What seems to have really pissed him off, though, was that Cosby’s lawyer distributed copies of their demand for recusal to the media before submitting it to the court.
Mesereau, the high-profile attorney who defended Michael Jackson in the pop star’s 2005 child molestation trial, probably should have known that his actions would have angered the judge. There were already signs that things were not going so well for the high-powered defense team. During pretrial hearings, O’Neill sided with the prosecution in battles over evidence and witnesses.
Meanwhile, jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday, and the judge could play a pivotal role in the process.
During jury selection at Cosby’s first trial, the entertainer’s legal team raised concerns about the racial make up of the jury. His attorneys accused the district attorney’s office of “systematic exclusion of African Americans” from the 12-person jury. As issues like that arise during the retrial, O’Neill’s decisions are likely to have a major impact.
The actor, who was once known as “America’s dad,” stands accused of drugging and sexually assaulting multiple women. But Andrea Constand‘s claims have been the only ones to result in a trial. For the retrial, O’Neill ruled that the jury can hear testimony from five other Cosby accusers.