LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial is expected to open today with jury selection but a lot has changed since the first trial in ended in a mistrial last June.
Namely, the #MeToo movement.
Legal experts told the Los Angeles Times that media coverage of alleged sexual abuse by men in power – the movement that sprang into the limelight last October with the tawdry details of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s sexual aggressiveness – will likely bolster the credibility of the woman at the center of the Cosby prosecution, Andrea Constand.
Constand said in the first trial that Cosby drugged her at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004 then molested her. Cosby’s defense said the encounter was consensual.
“If the obstacles of the prosecution at the first trial related to the credibility of the survivor and why Bill Cosby would act this way, then I think the #MeToo movement has provided a cultural context and validation of Constand’s account,” Daniel Medwed, a professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston, told the Times. “The movement is a game changer in terms of the jury.”
Lynn Hecht Schafran, an expert in gender issues affecting courts, told the paper she expects defense attorneys to question potential jurors about their views on sexual abuse because of the #MeToo atmosphere.
“I would think that there will be a much lengthier jury selection and a lot of delving into the question of whether potential jurors can follow testimony with laser-like focus on this case rather than having their minds made up because of what they’ve been reading and listening to,” Hecht Schafran, senior vice president of Legal Momentum’s Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York, told the Times.
Another thing has changed this time around: in the first trial, prosecutors were limited to calling one additional woman who alleged abuse. This time, jurors will hear from five women who will likely corroborate Cosby’s alleged behavior.