LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Potential jurors in a $21 million rape lawsuit against NBA star Derrick Rose were asked Tuesday what they know about the case, what basketball team they root for and whether they can set aside their own sexual moral beliefs and biases.
Rose, who is returning to the sport with a new team after several injuries, was not in the Los Angeles courtroom because the New York Knicks open their preseason in Houston the same day. He was expected to appear Thursday. His two friends and the woman who accused the trio of gang-rape attended jury selection.
Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald gave a panel of 50 prospective jurors an outline of the case, warning that they would hear testimony about sex acts and be exposed to vulgarity and profanity.
The woman, who dated Rose on and off for two years, claims he and two friends raped her while she was incapacitated in her apartment after a night of drinking in August 2013. Los Angeles police are still investigating.
She was identified in court for the first time and introduced to jurors by name. The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault.
Rose and friends Randall Hampton and Ryan Allen denied the allegations and said the sex was consensual.
“I feel like I’m innocent, and I feel like I didn’t do anything wrong,” Rose told reporters two weeks ago.
Lawyers for the three complained about the racial and ethnic makeup of the prospective jurors, noting only two were African-American like the defendants. They noted that 15 of the first 27 jurors were Hispanic, the ethnicity of the woman.
The jury pool was selected at random from a diverse population, Fitzgerald said. He said that was just “tough luck” and he could not rejigger the group.
Jurors were asked to fill out a short questionnaire that asked about their families, jobs and whether they or their relatives had ever been sexually assaulted.
They were asked what a woman should do if she has been raped and whether a woman can be raped by a man with whom she has sexual relationship.
The trial threatens to overshadow Rose’s attempts to bounce back from injuries that sidelined him the past few seasons and expose details of his sex life, including text messages discussing his desire to have group sex.
The woman has said she rebuffed those offers and never consented to having sex with the trio. She claimed she was drugged, though Rose’s lawyers said there’s no evidence of any drugs.
Rose’s attorneys said the woman is trying to extort millions from the former MVP.
The woman had wanted to remain anonymous because she said she was harassed online after her name was leaked and she didn’t want her conservative parents to learn about the incident. She said they don’t know anything about it or her relationship with Rose.
Fitzgerald allowed her to remain anonymous until trial. If he kept her identity from the jury, he said it might appear he was protecting her and jurors might assume he believed her, which could hamper Rose’s defence.
The woman reported the incident to police last year — two years after she says she was raped — which is when she sued.
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