Next week, comedian Bill Cosby will stand trial in once again Pennsylvania on charges of aggravated indecent assault stemming from an incident in 2004 where he allegedly gave a former Temple University employee Benadryl or some other substance that prevented her from consenting to his advances.
The previous case last summer ended with a hung jury. Essentially, jurors were not unanimous as to whether Cosby was guilty of the crimes accused. While the prosecution’s case this time around is essentially the same, the case will be bolstered by five additional witnesses, as well as the strength of a completely different world of public opinion since the previous case was decided.
Enter the #MeToo movement, which has taken down a number of industry titans in its wake, including Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., all of whom were accused of sexual misconduct (or assault). While they have not been criminally charged as of yet, their professional careers have disintegrated almost as quickly as their credibility against accusers.
This backdrop raises some interesting questions about what type of additional evidence (if any) will be allowed in the next trial. Evidence rules allow some information regarding a defendant’s “prior bad acts” to be incorporated in a case to prove if the defendant was more than likely to be guilty of the crime he or she is currently being tried for, but in very limited circumstances. Basically, evidence of a person’s prior discretions is not generally allowed to prove that the accused committed the crime unless it can prove motive, opportunity, intent, or preparation.
Ostensibly prosecutors may seek to use testimony from other women accusing Cosby to prove that he engaged in a pattern of illegal behavior that violated Pennsylvania law. It remains to be seen how much testimony from other women will be allowed, but it is a key question that will likely decide the case.