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Court releases names of Allegheny County jurors in Cosby sex assault case

Ben Schmitt
| Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 4:06 p.m.
Bill Cosby exits the Montgomery County Courthouse after a mistrial was declared in his sexual assault trial Saturday, June 17, 2017, in Norristown.
Bill Cosby exits the Montgomery County Courthouse after a mistrial was declared in his sexual assault trial Saturday, June 17, 2017, in Norristown.

A judge in the Bill Cosby sexual assault case Wednesday unsealed the names of the Allegheny County jurors whose inability to reach a verdict led to a mistrial.

Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill granted requests from various media outlets to release the names of the jurors in the two-week trial.

O'Neill declared a mistrial Saturday after a jury of seven men and five women from Allegheny County said it was hopelessly deadlocked.

Wednesday's ruling came with the following condition:

“Jurors shall not disclose anything said or done in the jury room by any of their fellow jurors that may indicate his or her thoughts or opinions,” O'Neill wrote. “Jurors shall not disclose arguments or comments made, or votes cast, by fellow jurors during deliberations.”

The ruling said the names would be released after court officials contacted each of the jurors and notified them of the judge's conditions. The Trib received the list just before 5 p.m. The list of 18 names did not say whether each person listed served as one of the 12 jurors or six alternate jurors.

The Tribune-Review attempted to reach each for comment. None could be reached directly.

The Trib is not publishing their names because the judge did not include their addresses or any other information that would clearly identify one person with that name from another. Many of the jurors have common names.

Prosecutors said after the mistrial that they plan to retry Cosby.

An alternate juror from Pittsburgh said Monday he would have probably voted to convict Cosby.

O'Neill initially sealed the jury list and cautioned jurors that speaking out could adversely impact a retrial.

Jurors returned home to Pittsburgh via charter bus around 6 p.m. Saturday. An Allegheny County sheriff's deputy barred media access to the jury members when they arrived at the East Busway's Penn Station.

Jurors were selected in Allegheny County because Cosby's attorneys argued that pretrial publicity would make it difficult to find impartial jury candidates in Montgomery County, where Cosby lives.

Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, called the decision a victory for the media.

“People who are participants in the judicial process have to be aware that public access is presumed and that is a constitutional guarantee,” she said. “It's a constitutional requirement for open courts. It's not the individual judge's decision.”

O'Neill, in his decision, cited a 2007 state Supreme Court decision indicating the media have a First Amendment right to the names of jurors.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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