Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Stephen L. Carter ― Bill Cosby's Past May Yet Be Heard in Court

(Bloomberg View)

In the public eye, Bill Cosby’s goose is pretty much cooked. As a legal matter, however, his conviction on sexual-assault charges stemming from an incident in 2004 will likely rest on whether the trial judge decides to admit what is known as “prior bad acts” evidence. This question, now being heavily mooted in the press and on legal blogs, is a tricky one.

The “prior bad acts” in question are of two forms: Cosby’s own testimony, in a deposition unsealed last fall, that he obtained quaaludes to facilitate sex acts with women, and the accusations of several dozen women that what Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, claims the entertainer did to her, he also did to them. Most of us by now believe that there’s fire behind the smoke, and that Cosby, a man the world once revered, is a deeply troubled or perhaps deeply evil human being.

But the jury will never hear everything the public does, and for good reason. In the courtroom, unlike in the real world, the fact that a defendant has acted in a particular manner on another occasion cannot be taken as evidence that he acted that way on the occasion in question. This is what is known as propensity evidence, and it has long been forbidden in U.S. courts.

Read the full article HERE.