Late last week, a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania jury convicted Bill Cosby of three counts of Aggravated Sexual Indecency. But ignore the verdict. Bill Cosby was not convicted of sexual assault.
What was the evidence?
To set the stage, this was a retrial of an earlier trial in which a mistrial was declared after the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. In that earlier trial, in addition to the testimony of the named victim (Andrea Constand), the prosecution was allowed to introduce the testimony of one additional woman who claimed that Cosby drugged her and then sexually assaulted her - just as was the allegation with Constand.
Where There's Smoke, There's Fire
Under a concept know as 'prior bad acts' evidence, the prosecution can introduce evidence of other acts (often crimes) to show a pattern or modus operandi (M.O.). More precisely, under Rule 404(B) of the Rules of Evidence, prior bad acts evidence can be used to demonstrate intent, motive, the absence of mistake, plan, identity, preparation, opportunity or knowledge.
In order for a jury to hear about these prior bad acts, the trial judge does not need to find that they actually happened, but instead, that there is merely enough evidence to believe that the allegations are credible and likely to have happened. The problem with this is that jurors can be more focused on the "other acts evidence", despite a lack of proof, and give the prosecution a pass on proving the actual charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Many argue that when jurors hear about the prior bad acts, they disregard the jury instructions, namely about the burden of proof, and simply convict under the mistaken belief that where there's smoke there's fire.
What Happened in Cosby's Retrial That Was Different
While in Cosby's first trial, the judge allowed evidence of one other sexual assault as a prior bad act. In the retrial, the judge allowed for five separate accusers to testify that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them as well. Many criminal defense attorneys around the country (and in Phoenix - namely yours truly) believe that this will provide a strong basis for appeal as the amount of prior bad act evidence which the jury heard was grossly disproportionate to the number of actual allegations with which Bill Cosby was charged.
Sexual Assault Defense from One of Phoenix' Most Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys
As should now be clear, the concept of prior bad acts in the context of sexual assault cases is a sophisticated legal issue. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the allegations and keep the jury's eyes focused on the actual charges, not just a bunch of irrelevant noise. You don't have to be a celebrity like Bill Cosby to hire one of Phoenix's most effective trial attorneys. Confidential and personal consultations can be scheduled by calling (602) 663-9100 during normal business hours.
A final point (that will make sense if you were watching the Bill Cosby trial coverage): Jason Lamm strongly recommends that at no time whatsoever should you call the prosecutor an a**hole in open court. Bill Cosby's lawyer should have given him that advice.