NORRISTOWN, Pa.—Any appearance of fair and impartiality that Judge Steven O’Neill may have exhibited is out the window, according to those siding with comedian Bill Cosby in his retrial.
After a weekend to ponder the actions of a juror selected to serve on the case, O’Neill decided Monday afternoon to allow the individual to remain on the panel.
The judge did so without public explanation.
“How can that be? The juror said he had already made up his mind that Cosby was guilty,” said Rhonda Traylor, an African American woman who said she came to court on Monday to counter planned protests against the comedian.
After being selected to serve as juror No. 11 last week, the man who is White and believed to be in his 40s, reportedly told others on the prospective panel that “I just think [Cosby’s] guilty, so we can all be done and get out of here.”
Sporting a dark hair of twists, a pearl necklace and wearing diamond studded earrings, Traylor said she was horrified over a protester who jumped a barrier, stripped off her shirt and bra and ran in front of Cosby.
The protestor was identified as Nicolle Rochelle, 39, of Little Falls, N.J. who was charged with disorderly conduct after sheriff’s deputies wrestled her to the ground and into a nearby bush. She later contacted other protestors who placed her on a speaker phone, so reporters could hear.
“They said they’d drop the charges, if I don’t come back to the courthouse,” Rochelle could be overheard saying. She said also that she had appeared on some episodes of the iconic “Cosby Show” in the early 1990s and noted that Cosby had always been respectful of her, but her outburst was to “show support to the women.”
“This is what it’s come to,” said Traylor, who works in a nearby mail sorting facility. “This isn’t about justice, it’s about demonstrations and putting on a show. And, I believe things are only going to get worse, because more people are beginning to realize that this judge and the prosecutors seem to be working together with the goal of taking Cosby down.”
O’Neill has repeatedly noted the need to be fair and impartial, however the judge’s rulings have often been called into question.
He ruled that five other alleged victims, including former supermodel Janice Dickinson, could testify in the retrial. Last year, he denied prosecutors request to call Dickinson and others.
Other controversial rulings include allowing Cosby’s deposition testimony; the hearsay testimony of Gianna Constand, the mother of alleged victim Andrea Constand; and denying several defense requests like letting the jury know that former District Attorney Bruce Castor declined charges against Cosby, because he said there was insufficient evidence and he questioned Constand’s credibility.
The judge has also denied a defense request to show the jury a 2005 press release from Castor in which the former DA explains his decision not to prosecute Cosby.
Further, O’Neill also declined to allow the defense to tell the jury about dueling lawsuits between Constand and Castor. Ironically, Castor’s lawsuit was dismissed by a judge on Friday, April 6 while Constand’s remain pending.
At the end of Monday, Cosby’s spokesman Andrew Wyatt, told reporters that the defense hopes that the jury can “be fair and impartial.”