Current events in Norristown, Pennsylvania concerning the trial of Bill Cosby bring legal questions and maneuvering to light. Bill Cosby, once known as America’s favorite dad for his role as Cliff Huxtable on the hit television sitcom “The Cosby Show,” was found guilty of rape for drugging women and then having sex with them. In his pleadings, Cosby denied the drugging allegations and claimed that the intercourse with the five accusing women was consensual. Currently, he is awaiting the sentencing phase of the trial and is free on a million dollar bond and is legally confined to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
Appealing the Verdict
The Cosby legal team vowed to appeal the verdict. In the interim, it is assumed that the legal team will request that Cosby remain out on bail while the case is prepared to go for appeal. If requested, it remains to be seen whether the judge grants the request, though it is likely.
Possible Trial Irregularities
There were seemingly some irregularities during the course of the trial, which the defense team may bring to light in an appeal. During the trial, the prosecution called the five accusers to the stand to testify. The Cosby defense team rejected to having so many accusers testify, claiming that allowing five accusers to testify is prejudicial to their client. If the appeals court accepts this argument, it would likely vacate the lower court’s ruling and remand the trial back to the lower court for a new hearing.
The United States court system champions itself as one based on fairness. To be convicted criminally, the prosecution must demonstrate that, at least in theory, the defendant committed the criminal act beyond a reasonable doubt. The case also has to be fair. If the prosecution puts forward evidence that removes the fairness component from the trial, then such evidence should not be admitted.
A common example of generally inadmissible evidence is polygraph test results. Polygraph test results are considered to be prejudicial because jurors tend to side with those results even though the polygraph test itself is not reliable. In other words, the trier of facts will over-emphasize something by taking it out of its context.
Having five witnesses all describing the same criminal act can be considered overly-prejudicial. A defense lawyer may argue that it takes a piece of evidence that should be used as a factor in the case into being definitive proof in the eyes of the jury. While victim testimony is compelling, five victims in a charged courtroom may be too much, the defense may argue. If Bill Cosby’s legal team makes such an argument, it would be up to the Appellate Court to determine the validity of such a circumstance. Both sides, the defense and prosecution, would provide case law and similar items describing how to roadmap prejudicial cases.
The results of the Cosby appeal remain to be seen.
Accused of a crime? Get the expert attention and trial lawyer you need to defend you. Contact the law firm of Christopher Abel.
(image courtesy of Claire Anderson)