NORRISTOWN, Pa. — The Bill Cosby sexual assault trial here sped to a close on Day 6, with jury deliberations beginning Monday evening after the defense opted not to present a case and closing arguments concluded.
The trial, which was supposed to last about two weeks, came to a close much sooner than expected, thanks in large part to the Cosby defense team’s decision to rest its case after just five minutes, calling only one witness — a prosecution witness who had testified last week — for a few follow-up questions.
Instead, most of Monday was given over to closing arguments, first the defense and then the prosecution, followed by jury instructions from Judge Steven O’Neill.
District Attorney Kevin Steele’s closing arguments were businesslike and direct. He argued the case is “as straightforward as you’re ever going to see in a sex crimes case — ever.”
“All of the fancy lawyering …can’t get you around (Cosby’s) own words,” the prosecutor said.
Steele meticulously itemized evidence, arguing that it supported the state’s assertion that Cosby “drugged” Constand. He also described three pillars of the case had been proven: 1) Cosby drugged Constand; 2) She was “legally” unconscious; and 3) She was unable to consent to sexual activity.
“This is not sympathy for the victim. This is not sympathy for the defendant. This is about evaluating the facts,” Steele said.
As jurors watched Steele closely, Cosby faced forward away from the prosecutor and the jury.
Steele recounted how both Constand and Cosby had referred to pills the entertainer had offered to Constand as her “friends.” “Who says something like that when you’re in that situation?” Steele asked the jury, rhetorically. “He is guilty of aggravated indecent assault because it comes out of his own mouth.”
Because of her condition after being drugged that night, Steele said, Cosby took away Constand's ability to say no to any advances. “Why? Because of what he wanted.”
Steele, continuing to address defense statements, said a “romantic interlude” did not exist between Constand and Cosby. That is evidenced, he said, by how Cosby left Constand disheveled on a couch after the incident.
“You’re there by yourself. You don’t put her in a bedroom for this…you put her on a sofa, you do what you do to her, and then you leave her,” he said, pleading with the jury.
And the earlier defense team's approach in closing didn't surprise observers. Lead defense attorney Brian McMonagle’s final argument swung wildly from whispered portrayals of Cosby and Constand’s “romantic” relationship to exasperated shouts, urging jurors that Constand’s misstatements to police — including about the date of the night in question — must create doubt about Constand's accusations that Cosby committed sexual assault.
During closing, McMonagle repeated to the jurors that Cosby’s life is in their hands.
For the first 10 minutes of the argument, however, McMonagle told a story about a father and daughter he had seen recently in a park eating ice cream. The anecdote led him to say that children see the best in their parents despite flaws.
The defense lawyer then made the connection to Cosby, saying that he was flawed, but his entertainment also changed how many saw the world.
Cosby “taught us how to smile…and how to love each other, no matter what we look like,” McMonagle said.
The lawyer emphasized that criminal charges were put into motion by attorneys in a previous civil lawsuit that offered no evidence of guilt. A deposition in that case provided no new information about the night that Constand says Cosby assaulted her, McMonagle said.
“This isn’t a civil case like I told you where we’re talking about money,” he said. “We’re talking about all of a man’s tomorrows.”
McMonagle's tone became tinged with anger as he stressed Constand’s misstatements to police about the day of the assault.
“Can we stop this?” McMonagle shouted, exasperated.
He acknowledged that Cosby gave Constand pills, but they were Benadryl and were meant to ease her tension. Never, was she incapacitated, he told the jurors, who were listening attentively.
“Paralyzed by Benadryl? Paralyzed by Benadryl?” McMonagle asked. “This is why this case got thrown in the trash can.”
The attorney concluded, telling the jurors that if they hold “more questions than you’ve got answers. That’s reasonable doubt.”
Next, instructions are expected to be given to the jury, which will decide on the three counts of aggravated indecent assault. The jury could begin deliberations by Monday evening.
The closing arguments took place after the defense rested its case after questioning just one witness.
Cheltenham Township Police Sgt. Richard Schaffer, a detective who interviewed Cosby in 2005 after Constand accused him of drugging and molesting her at his nearby home was recalled to the stand to answer follow-up questions from McMonagle, which included questions about Cosby’s deteriorating vision.
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 began chatting with members of his legal team.
Earlier, Judge 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.
Cosby spoke to the court for the first time since the trial began last week, telling O’Neill that he would 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.
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.
During the defense closing argument, Camille Cosby and Constand sat in front rows in the courtroom, only feet apart.
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.