After the prosecution in the Bill Cosby sexual assault case spent five days calling 12 witnesses who provided emotional testimony against the 79-year-old actor, Cosby’s defense put on their case this morning. The defense lasted six minutes, and was comprised only of a single police officer witness who confirmed the existence of a police report.
What is going on here? I spent three years in law school, passed the Massachusetts bar, and spent another two years in legal publishing, but everything I know about the six-minute defense basically comes from legal procedurals.
There are two scenarios here: Either Bill Cosby’s defense believed that the prosecution didn’t meet their burden of proof and felt no need to provide a defense in the form of rebuttal and character witnesses, or Bill Cosby simply did not have a defense. He had no rebuttal or character witnesses, specifically those who might have withstood cross-examination by the prosecution. Cosby didn’t testify on his own behalf, either (which is not unusual in a criminal case).
My feeling, based only what I have read about the case, so far, is that Cosby’s defense feared that rebuttal witnesses would only inflame the jury, which I suspect has a very sympathetic view of Andrea Constand, who alleges that Cosby drugged and raped her 13 years ago.
However, while the judge was addressing the court, Cosby’s wife, Camille, also slipped into the courtroom for the first time, which was likely a legal maneuver the defense hatched in an effort to win sympathy for Cosby.
It’s unclear if it will work. In my experience with legal dramas, the “The Defense rests!” defense rarely works, at least with juries. If Cosby doesn’t believe the prosecution met its legal burden, however, it will likely be the lynchpin of his appeal. Either that, or Cosby is trying to set up an ineffective assistance of counsel defense, which is a gamble that almost never bears fruit.
Closing arguments begin this afternoon, and the jury could start deliberating by the end of the day.