Lights, Camera, Arrest

How Could a Jury Not Convict Bill Cosby? How the case was lost.


Bill Cosby exits the Montgomery County Courthouse after a mistrial in his sexual assault case in Norristown, Pa., Saturday, June 17, 2017. Cosby's trial ended without a verdict after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Bill Cosby exits the Montgomery County Courthouse after a mistrial in his sexual assault case in Norristown, Pa., Saturday, June 17, 2017. Cosby’s trial ended without a verdict after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

It actually happened. With all of those accusers, with all of that media coverage, with Cosby clearly convicted in the court of public opinion, how is it possible that the disgraced actor and comedian escaped this criminal prosecution without a conviction? Well, he did, it just happened. After over 5 days and 45 hours of deliberations the Pennsylvania jury deadlocked and Judge Steven O’Neill declared a mistrial.

How is possible? Well, let’s start with the fact that of the 60+ women that have come forward with allegations of sexual assault against Cosby, only two were permitted to testify in this case: Andrea Constand, the victim in this particular prosecution, and Kelly Johnson. Johnson testified that she was drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby. Prosecutors were only allowed one of the other women who accused Cosby to testify, and Johnson’s story closely paralleled the story of Constand. The claims made by both women are similar in that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them after inviting them to his home.

However, jurors were truly only permitted to look at the facts of this one particular case. Most of the allegations against Cosby were too remote in time, and prosecutors proceeded with this case just before the statute of limitations lapsed. And the facts of this case, in a vacuum, had some glaring problems for the prosecution which these jurors clearly struggled with.

These major flaws in the prosecution’s case became fatal at trial, after what many commentators thought would be a slam dunk conviction. Constand’s allegations came a year later after a “flashback” triggered her memory, she hired a civil attorney before filing criminal charges in Canada, she texted Cosby over 70 times after the alleged rape, and there was no forensic or video evidence to substantiate any of the claims. The cross examination of the prosecution witnesses and alleged victim ultimately ended up as the factual defense, casting doubt on the veracity of those claims. With only the testimony of Constand to fall back on, it appears some jurors were not sure who or what to believe.

The standard jury instruction used by Pennsylvania to define reasonable doubt in a criminal trial is:

“To find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, you must be convinced of his guilt to the same degree you would be convinced about a matter of importance in your life in which you would act with confidence and without restraint or hesitation.”

The prosecution must provide sufficient evidence that is not based on mere speculation. Having such a high burden of proof ensures protections against wrongful conviction. It also helps to support the presumption of innocence.

Andrea Constand alleged that Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted her in his home in 2004.Eight years later the Montgomery County, PA, District Attorney decided to file criminal charges, just weeks short of the statute of limitations.

Cosby’s lawyer painted Constand as a liar who damaged Cosby’s credibility with conflicting statements to the police when she first accused Cosby of sexually assaulting her in 2005. Prosecutors portrayed Constand as a victim, who had no voice.

While Cosby’s team is declaring today’s mistrial as a huge victory and vindication for the former TV Dad, the legal war is far from over. The District Attorney’s office has already made it public that it will retry Cosby with a separate jury. And so the saga continues.

RYAN KERNS – Senior Legal Writer

Source: Wild About Trial

Copyright 2017 Wild About Trial. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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