NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby’s lawyers put on a case consisting of just one witness and six minutes of testimony Monday, wrapping up the defence side in the sexual assault trial without the comedian himself taking the stand.
The jury was expected to hear closing arguments next and could get the case in the afternoon.
The question going into Monday’s proceedings was whether Cosby hismelf would testify — a high-stakes gamble that could have allowed him to work his charm on the jury but could have also exposed him to blistering cross-examination.
With Cosby’s wife of 53 years, Camille, looking on from the gallery for the first time in the 6-day-old trial, he told a judge that he made the decision not to take the stand after talking it over with his lawyers.
Judge Steven O’Neill asked Cosby a series of questions designed to make sure he was aware of his right to testify and wasn’t pressured into deciding against it. Cosby spoke loudly as he answered, responding “YES!” or “NO!”
The defence called just one witness, the detective who led the 2005 investigation into allegations that Cosby drugged and violated Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home.
Detective Richard Schaffer was one of 12 witnesses who testified during the five-day prosecution case. In a six-minute appearance Monday, Shaffer told jurors under defence questioning that Constand had visited with Cosby at an out-of-state casino and that police knew he had vision problems more than a decade ago.
The judge shot down a defence request to call a second witness, a woman who worked with Constand at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University.
Cosby could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of molesting Constand in 2004. He has said the encounter was consensual.
Constand, 44, told her side of the story over some seven hours on the witness stand.
The question hanging over the trial Monday was whether the TV star himself would testify. Cosby’s spokesman suggested last week that the comic might take the stand, but his lawyers were mum.
Experts had said the legal risks would be considerable.
“He could be a fantastic witness. … He’s an actor and he’s a very good actor,” Duquesne University School of Law professor Wes Oliver said ahead of Monday’s court session. But “he is potentially opening the door to a whole lot of cross-examination that they fought really hard to keep out.”
Prosecutors wanted 13 other accusers to testify at the trial, but the judge allowed just one, an assistant to his agent at the William Morris Agency.
The defence’s main goal in the prosecution phase of the case was to attack the credibility of Constand and the other accuser, Kelly Johnson.
Johnson had corroborating evidence in the form of her 1996 workers’ compensation claim. A lawyer on the case recalled her startling account of being drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby, but his notes revealed a glaring discrepancy in the account. He said the encounter occurred in 1990, while Johnson insists it was 1996.
The defence had more trouble trying to discredit Constand, 44. Cosby’s lawyers hammered home the point that she doesn’t know just when it happened, and they questioned why she had regular phone contact with Cosby later that spring, including more than 50 calls to him.
Constand said she had to return calls from the Temple University trustee because he was an important booster and she worked for the women’s basketball team.
She filed a police complaint in January 2005 after moving back home to the Toronto area, and then sued Cosby in March 2005 when the local prosecutor decided not to charge him.
Cosby’s testimony in her civil case showed just how hard a witness he would have been to control. His answers, like his comedy routines, meandered and veered toward stream of consciousness.
And he used jarring language to describe his sexual encounters with various young women. He spoke in the deposition of “the penile entrance” and “digital penetration.” And he displayed hints of arrogance.
“One of the greatest storytellers in the world and I’m failing,” Cosby said when asked to repeat an answer in the deposition.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand and Johnson have done.