Attorneys for Bill Cosby on Tuesday outlined their grounds for appealing his sexual assault conviction.
They cited what they called errors in legal procedure that may have biased the jury and warrant a new trial for the once-beloved comedian.
Cosby, best known for his role as the lovable family man and physician on the hit television sitcom “The Cosby Show”, was found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting a onetime friend in April 2004.
It marked the first such criminal conviction of a celebrity accused of sexual misconduct since the #MeToo movement that has brought down dozens of powerful, privileged men in American media, politics and business since the autumn of 2017.
The trial judge, Steven O’Neill, designated Cosby a “sexually violent predator” under Pennsylvania law, requiring the entertainer to register as a sex offender for life, and sentenced him to a term of three to 10 years in prison.
Cosby, who is married, has insisted all along that any sexual encounters he had were consensual. He was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
In an eight-page filing laying out the basis of their appeal, Cosby’s lawyers focused on several instances they said introduced bias into the trial.
It also included the judge’s refusal to excuse a juror that the defense argued was unable to be fair and impartial.
The defence asserted that the juror in question had stated an inclination to believe Cosby guilty at the outset of the trial, fellow jurors were never interviewed to determine whether they had heard the comment or were swayed by it.
In addition according to the filing, O’Neill failed to disclose a biased relationship with Bruce Castor, a former Montgomery County district attorney with whom defence lawyers said the judge had a confrontation.
Cosby’s lawyers have argued that Castor promised in 2005 that Cosby would not be prosecuted if he agreed to sit for a sworn deposition in a civil suit brought against him by his accuser, former Temple University administrator Andrea Constand.
That deposition, in which Cosby acknowledged giving sedatives called Quaaludes to young women for purposes of having sex with them, was unsealed a decade later.
Castor’s successor, District Attorney Kevin Steele, cited it as a crucial piece of evidence when criminal charges were brought.
The judge should not have allowed Cosby’s civil deposition testimony about Quaaludes to be introduced in his criminal trial, the defence said.
They argued that it was not relevant to Constand’s allegations and was highly prejudicial, because it included statements regarding the illegal act of giving a narcotic to another person.
Cosby’s attorneys also faulted the judge for allowing prosecutors to call as witnesses other accusers whose allegations, the defence argued were too remote in time and too dissimilar to Constand’s allegations.
Moreover, the defence asserted that a prosecution expert who testified relied on hearsay evidence of about 50 additional women, who had leveled sexual misconduct allegations against Cosby.
Under the state’s appeals process, the trial judge will write an opinion by explaining his reasoning for the rulings the defence has challenged, and the matter will ultimately be decided by Pennsylvania’s appellate-level Superior Court.
A representative for the prosecution did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filing. (Reuters/NAN)