Cosby Lawyers Moment Makes Fair Trial Difficult
By GRAHAM BOWLEYMARCH 6, 2018
NORRISTOWN, Pa. — The #MeToo movement is making it tougher for Bill Cosby to get a fair trial, his lawyers asserted Tuesday, as they fought in a pretrial hearing here to prevent 19 additional accusers from testifying at his retrial on sexual assault charges.
Prosecutors say the 19 accounts would establish a pattern of predatory conduct by Mr. Cosby, 80, and help fend off defense attacks on the credibility of Andrea Constand, whose accusation that Mr. Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 2004 is the only one to lead to criminal charges. Mr. Cosby has said that the incident, which occurred at his home near here, was consensual.
“This is a 40-year, continuous pattern,” said Adrienne Jappe, an assistant district attorney in Montgomery County, where the retrial will take place.
But defense lawyers said allowing more accusers onto the stand would distract the jurors from the case at the heart of the trial. Becky S. James, one of Mr. Cosby’s lawyers, said in the pretrial hearing here Tuesday, “Letting in multiple mini-trials, which this would be, would end up dominating.”
“One is too many,” she said, “and 19 is far, far too many.” She noted that Mr. Cosby would be at a disadvantage battling accounts that depict events said to have occurred decades ago. “These are just ancient accusations,” she said.
But prosecutors said each accuser’s credibility was an issue for the jury to consider and that limiting the testimony would reduce their ability to show a predatory pattern.
The defense team said the #MeToo movement had nothing to do with Mr. Cosby. Some experts, however, say #MeToo may change how people view the credibility of the accusers, and the Cosby case may be the first significant test of how a jury might be affected at trial.
Since Mr. Cosby’s first trial ended in a hung jury last June, many powerful men — starting with Harvey Weinstein in October 2017 — have faced public accusations of sexual assault. Three years earlier, Mr. Cosby experienced his own rush of accusations that he had hidden a history of mistreating women behind his comforting role as “America’s Dad.”
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