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Jury selection begins in Bill Cosby’s assault trial

Cosby's walk into the courthouse this morning on May 22, 2017, during his jury selection for his criminal trial

PITTSBURGH– For decades, he was one of America’s most popular entertainers.

Now Bill Cosby is facing trial on sexual assault charges that could put the comedian in prison for the rest of his life.

As his jury selection began here Monday morning, Cosby, 79, leaned back in his chair in the courtroom, looking at the ceiling.

As of Monday afternoon, three jurors had been seated: one white female and two white males. The selection process was continuing.

Of 100 potential jurors interviewed, 86 said they had previous knowledge of the case.

Cosby is charged with three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault of a Temple University employee in 2004 in his home outside Philadelphia.

If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.

Cosby, best known as the benevolent father of the smash sitcom “The Cosby Show,” has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Opening statements are due to begin June 5 in Montgomery County.

Cosby wanted trial moved

In recent years, more than 50 women have accused him of misconduct. Many allege he drugged and sexually assaulted them.

This is the only criminal trial.

Judge Steven O’Neill in February granted a defense request that jurors come from another county. But the judge denied a request to move the trial, which Cosby sought due to pretrial publicity.

Jurors will be bused and sequestered in a hotel. The trial is expected to last two to three weeks.

Cosby does not plan to testify in his own defense, he told CNN host Michael Smerconish last week.

Some laughter in the courtroom

Cosby did not speak as he entered court Monday. He wore sunglasses, carried a cane and held a man by the arm.

When he sat down, he needed assistance finding his chair. Cosby is “legally unsighted” due to problems linked to glaucoma, he told Smerconish.

Potential jurors’ eyes locked on Cosby when he walked in. Some in the back sat up so they could look at him.

Members of Cosby’s legal team smiled, even laughed, at times.

For most of the morning session, the defendant sat back in his chair looking straight up.

By the numbers

The pool of potential jurors includes 2,934 people.

O’Neill posed 48 questions to 100 of them in the morning.

They answered by raising juror cards. Among the jurors:

53 women and 16 nonwhite people. 34 said they had formed an opinion of guilty or innocent in the case already. 14 said their preconceived notion would prevent them from being fair or impartial. 35 admitted they or someone close to them had been the victim of sexual assault. 67 said the trial would create an extraordinary or undue hardship. 14 said the fact the case involves charges of sex assault would affect their ability to make a fair and impartial decision on guilt or innocence.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the location of Cosby’s home and of the trial opening statements scheduled to begin June 5. Cosby lives outside Philadelphia. Opening statements will be in Montgomery County.

By Lawrence Crook III, Jean Casarez and Jay Croft