Bill Cosby trial

Bill Cosby could testify in his criminal trial; here’s what that means

The comedian’s testimony immediately raises the stakes in his criminal sexual assault case.

Cosby (R) with entourage at the fourth day of his criminal trial in Norristown.

Cosby (R) with entourage at the fourth day of his criminal trial in Norristown.

AFP / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Pool

The dynamics of the Bill Cosby trial could substantially change, with the star now seriously considering he will testify.

Deadline Hollywood’s Dominic Patten reported Thursday night Cosby was thinking of taking the stand in his own defense. That testimony would come after accuser Andrea Constand and her mother Gianna Constand provided damaging testimony for the prosecution. Weeks before the trial, Cosby had told CNN’s Michael Smerconish in a radio interview he would not testify.

On Friday, Cosby’s spokesman confirmed the comedian is considering testifying:

Here’s what it could mean for the case and why Cosby would be considering this change in strategy:

Cosby would get to explain ‘his words’

So much of this trial has been about Cosby’s words — just not from present day. Assistant district attorney Kristen Feden began the prosecution’s opening statement by quoting Cosby from a deposition, saying he provided drugs to women. She then said, “His words, his voice that we know so well as he approached Andrea Constand with pills in his hand.” Thursday’s court session included extensive statements from a Cosby deposition and a police interview. And that came after a recording was played of him telling Constand’s mother he would pay for her daughter’s college tuition.

On the stand, Cosby would be able to explain his side of these situations, something that has so far mostly been lacking. What were the dozens of phone conversations with Constand about after the alleged assault took place? Why did he offer to pay for her graduate school? What were his thoughts of their relationship and during the night in question? In lawyer Brian McMonagle’s opening statement, he said Cosby considered that night “romantic.” The man himself would now be able to expand on that belief.

Why Cosby would need to make this decision

Through four days, the prosecution has built an extensive case against the comedian. Constand took the stand for more than eight hours, clearly told her story and didn’t get distracted by the defense’s attempts to discredit her timeline. As soon as she got down, her mother became the next witness and raised eyebrows with harrowing testimony, including the revelation that Cosby told her while explaining his actions during the night of the alleged assault, “I feel bad telling you this. I feel like it sounds perverted.”

The defense, aside from perhaps the first day of the trial when other accuser Kelly Johnson was on the stand, could use a major revelation for Cosby.

His testimony could play well to the jury

Anytime a defendant chooses not to testify, a judge explains why it is not a requirement for the defendant and it has no bearing whatsoever on his or her guilt or innocence. There’s no doubt that’s what Judge Steven T. O’Neill would do if Cosby elects not to testify. But it’s no secret among trial lawyers that it can be beneficial for a defendant to testify. Jurors always want to hear from the person charged with the crime.

As mentioned above, the defense’s star witnesses have presented a clear narrative of the night the alleged assault took place and the aftermath. Cosby, who made his living as an actor, would need to present as convincing a story if he wanted to sway the jury.

This trial could last longer

Many expected the Cosby trial would last for three weeks, despite O’Neill’s claims it would only last for two. During court Thursday, he said he expected it might taken even less time, that it would wrap up perhaps as early as the middle of next week.

That’s what it seemed like before this possibility, anyway. Without Cosby, the defense had few witnesses it would legitimately call, likely just character witnesses and former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor, who originally dropped charges against him. Cosby changes that. He’d likely be on the stand for as long as Constand, who testified for several hours over two days.

Want some more? Explore other Bill Cosby trial stories.

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