PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Legal attorneys are lining up on both sides of actor Bill Cosby’s appeal as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court prepares to review his 2018 sexual assault conviction.
Cosby was the first celebrity to face trial in the #MeToo era, and his profession could resolve lingering questions about how to go to trial. For starters, the Supreme Court will try to clarify when other prosecutors can testify against a suspect – and when the additional testimony amounts to character assassination.
Philadelphia public defenders noted in a friend-of-the-court letter filed in Cosby’s appeal that courts have issued conflicting guidelines on the matter.
“Courts repeatedly fail to analyze how uncharged misconduct is relevant to, say, intent or identity,” the Defender Association of Philadelphia wrote in the amicus letter, one of many filed in the case over the past month.
They say the testimony should only be allowed if it is linked to a single crime plan, in order to avoid “the real risk that suspects will be convicted for who they are, or for what they may or may not have done before.”
The prosecutor would file his response to Cosby’s appeal on Monday.
Cosby, 83, will mark two years in prison this month and has one more year to go before he can apply for parole. However, he has vowed to serve the full maximum of 10 years rather than repent for what he calls a 2004 consensual meeting with Andrea Constand, a former professional basketball player who worked for his alma mater, Temple University, in Philadelphia.
Cosby won a chance to overturn his conviction earlier this year when the state’s Supreme Court agreed to review two pivotal trial issues: the other prosecution’s testimony and Cosby’s claim that a former prosecutor had promised he would never could be charged in the case.
Cosby’s attorneys said they trusted that promise when they had him testify in a civil suit filed by Constand in 2005, shortly after the Philadelphia suburban district attorney refused to arrest Cosby. A successor, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, arrested Cosby a decade later after the comedian’s damaging statement was lifted from the trial.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, in a letter in support of Steele, said the Cosby camp’s decision to rely on an unwritten pledge before testifying in such a “serious matter … was unreasonable. . “
The Supreme Court has not yet set a date for pleadings. The other groups submitting legal information in the appeal are the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.
Cosby was convicted on three charges of sexual assault on charges that he drugged and abused Constand after she came to his home for career advice. The five other prosecutors who testified for the prosecution said they believed he drugged and sexually assaulted them in the 1980s as well.
Pennsylvania jurisprudence suggests that judges should use caution when it comes to testimony of “ past bad deeds, ” only allowing it for a few specific reasons, such as showing a “ characteristic ” crime pattern.
Cosby’s judge, Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill, said their testimony did just that, even if it happened a decade or two before the meeting with Constand.