Actor Bill Cosby could charm jurors at his sexual assault trial if he testifies this week, but experts say the risk would be considerable.
Accuser Andrea Constand has told her side of the story. The jury also heard Cosby’s version in the form of his police statement and his lurid deposition in her 2005 lawsuit. But will they hear from the 79-year-old actor himself when the defense starts Monday?
Cosby’s spokesman says maybe, but his lawyers remain mum.
“He could be a fantastic witness. … He’s an actor and he’s a very good actor,” said Duquesne University School of Law professor Wes Oliver. “(But) he is potentially opening the door to a whole lot of cross-examination that they fought really hard to keep out.”
Prosecutors wanted 13 other accusers to testify at the trial, but the judge allowed just one, an assistant to his agent at the William Morris Agency. That meant the prosecution rested its case on Friday, just five days after the trial began.
If Cosby testifies, and denies drugging and molesting Constand or anyone else, the judge might allow more accusers to testify as rebuttal witnesses.
“It would be very bad for him for the jury to even begin to think about the other women,” Oliver said.
The defense’s main goal this past week has been to attack the credibility of Constand and the William Morris assistant, Kelly Johnson. Johnson had corroborating evidence in the form of her 1996 worker’s compensation claim. A lawyer on the case recalled her startling account of being drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby, but his notes revealed a glaring discrepancy in the account. He said the encounter occurred in 1990, while Johnson insists it was 1996, the year she left her job.
The defense had more trouble trying to discredit Constand. They hammered home the point that she doesn’t know just when it happened, and they questioned why she had regular phone contact with Cosby later that spring. Constand said she had to return calls from the Temple University trustee because he was an important booster and she worked for the women’s basketball team.
She filed a police complaint in January 2005 after moving back home to the Toronto area, and then sued Cosby in March 2005 when the local prosecutor decided not to charge him.
Cosby’s testimony in her civil case shows just how hard a witness he would be to control. His answers, like his comedy routines, meander from point to point and veer toward stream of consciousness.
And he uses jarring language to describe his sexual encounters with various young women. He talks in the deposition of “the penile entrance” and “digital penetration,” and he told Constand’s mother, when she called to confront him, that her daughter had had an orgasm. And he can display hints of arrogance.
“One of the greatest storytellers in the world and I’m failing,” Cosby said when asked to repeat an answer in the deposition.
The defense could call other witnesses to try to bolster their argument that Cosby had a consensual relationship with Constand, 35 years his junior.
The trial would move to closing arguments on Monday if they decide not to put anyone on the stand.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand and Johnson have done.