Bill Cosby trial Day 6: He stays off stand, defense rests after one witness

NORRISTOWN, PA. - NORRISTOWN, Pa. —  Bill Cosby opted against taking the stand in his own defense on Day 6 of his sexual assault trial Monday, and his defense team rested after calling just one witness.

Cheltenham Township Police Sgt. Richard Schaffer, a detective who interviewed Cosby in 2005 after accuser Andrea Constand accused him of drugging and molesting her at his nearby home, testified for the prosecution last week. On Monday, he was recalled to the stand to answer follow-up questions from lead defense attorney Brian McMonagle, which included questions about Cosby’s deteriorating vision.

After a short cross-examination from prosecutors, Schaffer stepped down.

“Defense rests,” McMonagle said. The trial now moves on to closing arguments.

It was a speedy end to the defense case, in a trial that has already moved fairly briskly. The defense move means the trial, predicted to last two weeks, could be over in a shorter period of time.

What will the defense team tell the jury in closing arguments?

"The defense will argue that you should not convict Bill Cosby because the prosecution has not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt," predicted Stuart Slotnick, a criminal defense lawyer who has been following the trial. "Cosby’s lawyers will urge the jury to reject (Constand's) testimony because there are too many inconsistencies, too many questions, too many things that don’t make sense."

Cosby entered the courtroom Monday appearing composed and confident, contrasting with an often-glum persona from previous days. He walked to his defense table carrying a cane, and after taking his seat, he immediately began chatting with members of his legal team.

Earlier, Judge Steven O'Neill announced in court the defense would call only one witness, Schaffer. He also quizzed Cosby on his decision not to take the stand in his defense, despite hints last week from his spokesman Andrew Wyatt that he might.

Cosby spoke to the court for the first time since the trial began last week, telling O’Neill that he will not testify. O’Neill asked Cosby if he discussed the issue with his attorneys and if he understood there is no obligation to testify, as the burden to prove the charges of aggravated indecent sexual assault case lies solely with the prosecutors.

“I have been advised that you do not intend to testify, is that correct?” O’Neill asked.

“Correct,” Cosby said.

This week was supposed to be Cosby's turn to tell his side of the story of his 2004 encounter with Constand, following five days of testimony from 12 witnesses called by the prosecution last week. Constand says Cosby drugged and molested her as she lay helpless on his couch at his nearby home. He says the encounter was consensual. Constand's is the only accusation of dozens to reach a criminal court.

 

But defendants don't have to testify and don't have to put on a defense if lawyers believe prosecutors have failed to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

On Monday, for the first time, Cosby, 79 and nearly blind, was accompanied to court by his wife of more than 50 years, Camille. Last week, neither she nor their four daughters appeared.

Wyatt told reporters last week Cosby told his wife to stay away to avoid the media mob at the trial. Instead, Cosby was accompanied by friends and former co-stars, such as Keisha Knight Pulliam, who played his daughter on The Cosby Show.

 

Cosby's legal team, led by McMonagle and Angela Agrusa, never confirmed that he would testify, and legal experts say it's usually not a wise move because it opens up a defendant to potentially damaging cross-examination.

Cosby's lawyers argued in pre-trial hearings before Judge O'Neill against allowing some of the 60 other women who have accused Cosby of drugging and/or assaulting them to testify about these accusations, some of them dating back to the mid-1960s.

Only one other accuser, Kelly Johnson, who formerly worked for Cosby's agent, was allowed to testify for the prosecution last week; she said Cosby drugged her and assaulted her in a hotel bungalow in Los Angeles in 1996.

Last week, when Deputy District Attorney Kevin Steele and Assistant DA Kristen Feden presented their case against Cosby, Constand stuck to her story, remaining mostly unflappable on cross-examination about questions and discrepancies raised by the defense.

The jury, picked in Pittsburgh and sequestered in suburban Philadelphia, also heard Cosby's own words about the 13-year-old encounter, via 2005 police interviews and a damaging deposition he gave in Constand's civil suit against him, which was settled in 2006.

Among other admissions, Cosby said in that deposition that he acquired drugs to give to women he sought for sex; McMonagle asked no questions about that on cross-examination, apparently wanting to move past talk about giving drugs to women.

In 2015, Steele cited the Cosby deposition as new evidence in reopening the long-abandoned case against Cosby stemming from the Constand accusation.

Puente reported from McLean, Va.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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