The Eyes of the World will be on Montgomery County, PA Beginning April 2 for The Retrial of the Century. By Joseph M. Marrone
The media spotlight will be on the Philadelphia area as entertainer Bill Cosby heads back to court on April 2 for his retrial on sexual assault charges involving a former Temple University employee more than a decade ago. The infamous celebrity is accused of drugging Andrea Constand and engaging in sexual acts with her absent of her consent. The first trial ended in a hung jury last June, but this time, circumstances have changed dramatically. Things may go a little differently given the heightened attention to celebrity sexual harassment cases in the #MeToo era. The fact that it is a national issue which has garnered ongoing press and influence over the public will make it hard to select a potential jury from a jury pool that has not been tainted by this influential campaign against sexual harassment. Will Bill Cosby be the “fall guy” for all of the potential celebrities who have been accused? Will he pay the price for all of the misdeeds in Hollywood? In my opinion, it is sure set up that way, which is daunting, to say the least. He is the first high profile celebrity to possibly be found guilty of sexual harassment where a judge will have an opportunity to impose a sentence that may ultimately become a statement on the entire national tragedy.
Secondly, finding impartial jurors who have not been exposed to the blaze of publicity this go-around will prove to be extremely difficult since the national media has embraced and exploited this topic. The recent article in Porter Edit magazine, in which actress Lisa Bonet states that there was a “sinister energy” about Bill Cosby when filming “The Cosby Show” and “darkness always around him” and that “she sensed he [Cosby] was not the person he presented” could have a significant impact on selected jurors in this case. Many of these questions will be asked during the process of “voir dire”, which is when both the prosecution and defense question potential jurors. The ongoing public exposure to the continuing press on sexual harassment in general may impact their opinions.
The strategic move by Cosby’s team to replace local counsel with LA celebrity attorney, Tom Mesereau, whose famous clients have included Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson could be detrimental to the case given the fact that Montgomery County, Pennsylvania is a close-knit, conservative community. Perhaps it would have made more sense to stay with the skillful local attorney that they originally had in place. Attorney Brian McMonagle is well-respected by the courts, district attorneys and potential jurors. Tom Mesereau, although talented, may be viewed as an outsider, over reaching and somewhat obnoxious based on the previous PR put forth by Cosby’s camp. In addition, Cosby’s wife, Camille wrote a scathing letter to the judge after the first trial criticizing the procedure of the case, coupled with hiring an LA celebrity attorney will likely send the wrong message.
What potentially may prove to be even more devastating is the fact that the judge has agreed with the prosecution to allow five more alleged victims to testify against Cosby this time, as opposed to only one who testified in the last trial. By having at least five alleged victims testify, plus the victim in question, may show an on-going pattern of conduct by Cosby and make the criminal charges highly believable. It will be very difficult for the defense to discredit that many victims. However, if the defense plays it properly they can shape the case as a “pile on” situation coupled with the previous District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute, could raise doubt in the jurors’ minds. The defense can ultimately try to position Cosby as the victim, but that will prove to be difficult, to say the least, considering all of the press and hype that this case has generated to date.
Tags: ArtsandEntertainment, News, Celebrity, CelebrityTrials, SexualHarassment, ViolentCrime, CelebrityLegalAffairs, Juries, Philadelphia