Bill Cosby arrived at court Monday morning for Day 6 of his sexual assault trial and the start of the defence side of the case, accompanied for the first time by his wife of 53 years, Camille.
The question hanging over the case was whether the TV star would testify.
Camille Cosby’s arrival marked the first time during the trial of the comedian once known as America’s Dad that a family member was at his side. The couple have four daughters.
The prosecution rested its case Friday after five swift days of testimony in the case that could send the 79-year-old Cosby to prison for the rest of his life. Cosby’s spokesman said last week that the comic might take the stand, but his lawyers were mum.
Cosby could charm jurors by testifying. But experts said the legal risks would be considerable.
Accuser Andrea Constand, 44, has told her side of the story. The jury also heard Cosby’s version in the form of his police statement and his lurid deposition in her 2005 lawsuit.
“He could be a fantastic witness. … He’s an actor and he’s a very good actor,” said Duquesne University School of Law professor Wes Oliver. 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.
If Cosby testifies, and denies drugging and molesting Constand or anyone else, the judge might allow more accusers to testify as rebuttal witnesses.
“It would be very bad for him for the jury to even begin to think about the other women,” Oliver said.
The trial would move to closing arguments on Monday if the defence decided not to put anyone on the stand.
The defence’s main goal this past week has been to attack the credibility of Constand and the William Morris assistant, 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. 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 shows just how hard a witness he would be to control. His answers, like his comedy routines, meandered from point to point 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.