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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

June 18, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: Bill Cosby retrial is set for April 9

The retrial of comedian Bill Cosby for sexual assault charges began April 2, when the selection process for the jury began. The trial itself will not start until at least April 9, given that the pretrial hearings and the jury selection go as planned.

The original trial for the sexual assault charges brought against Cosby resulted in a mistrial in June 2017, after jurors deliberated for 52 hours without reaching a verdict. Kevin Steele, the district attorney for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, announced immediately after the mistrial was declared that he would retry Cosby.

The trial centers around allegations made by Andrea Constand, a former employee of Temple University, who said that Cosby drugged her and sexually assaulted her in 2004. Constand filed a lawsuit against Cosby in 2005, and Cosby’s legal team reached a settlement in November 2006. Cosby’s deposition was sealed after the settlement, but the eventual release of parts of the deposition in 2015 caused the Montgomery County District Attorney to reopen the case.

Five women will testify in addition to Constand at the retrial later this month. Prosecutors originally wanted to have 19 accusers testify against Cosby, saying that their cases were “strikingly similar” to that of Constand’s. At least 60 women have come forward alleging that Cosby has sexually assaulted, sexually harassed or raped them, as of March 15.

The retrial will be different from the original trial in 2017 for a number of reasons. Most notably, a judicial ruling from O’Neill will allow five previous accusers to testify at the retrial, which “gives prosecutors a huge opening to press their argument that Cosby is a serial sexual assaulter,” according to Washington Post writer Manuel Roig-Franzia. At the original trial, O’Neill allowed only one previous accuser to testify at Constand’s trial.

However, O’Neill hinted that he may keep information about Cosby giving women Quaaludes, a once-popular sleep aid, from jurors, which could strike a blow to the case that the prosecutors are building against Cosby. Cosby’s use of Quaaludes is referenced to multiple times in the deposition from 2006, but O’Neill said he was not there to rule on what was said in prior testimony.

“This defendant is not on trial for what he said in his deposition,” O’Neill said.

In addition, experts believe the prevalence of the #MeToo movement will influence jury selection. Richard Gabriel, a jury consultant that has worked on over 1,000 trials, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the movement may have a polarizing effect on potential jurors.

“We really have had this explosion of awareness since that last trial, and it has changed the entire environment,” Gabriel said. “It is a huge challenge for the defense, but it could also provide an avenue and open up the topic.”

Meaghan McElroy can be reached at mmcelroy@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @meaghan_mcelroy