As jurors heard closing arguments Tuesday in Bill Cosby’s criminal retrial, defense lawyers questioned the motives of the women who accused Cosby of sexual assault and called Andrea Constand a liar, while prosecutors said the comedian was the one pulling a “con.”
On the 12th day of Cosby’s retrial on aggravated indecent assault charges, two lawyers from Cosby’s team—Kathleen Bliss and Tom Mesereau—split their final argument on Cosby’s behalf. Following suit, Kristen Gibbons Feden and M. Stewart Ryan split the prosecution’s closing argument.
Bliss started by reminding the jury of Temple University academic adviser Marguerite Jackson. Jackson testified that Constand told her in 2004 she had been sexually assaulted by a high-profile person, then backtracked and said she wasn’t assaulted, but could say she was to get money.
Bliss contrasted Jackson, a longtime employee at Temple, with Constand, who worked at the college a short time and, Bliss said, participated in a “pyramid scheme” while working there.
“Who are you going to believe? Are you going to believe a mature, dignified woman who takes the stand and gives you specific details that do not change? Or someone who gives inconsistent statements, one after the other after the other after the other?” Bliss said.
Ryan cast doubt on Jackson’s testimony in his portion of the prosecution’s closing, pointing out her inconsistent statements about the number of times she traveled with the Temple women’s basketball team, and contradicting testimony about how close she was with Constand.
“Not only is Marguerite Jackson uncorroborated, but she’s contradicted at many turns,” Ryan said. “If a person makes one false statement, and a material one, you can discount the entirety of their testimony.”
In the prosecution’s closing, Feden said Cosby is the person who gained the trust of women and betrayed that trust, pointing him out to the jury multiple times.
“This is his con, and he’s laughing like it’s funny, but there is absolutely nothing funny about stripping a woman of her decency, incapacitating her to the point where she can’t consent,” Feden said, as Cosby appeared to chuckle quietly at the defense table. “There is nothing funny about that, Mr. Cosby,” she said with a raised voice.
Bliss then attacked the testimony of each of the five other accusers who testified for the prosecution. She said the prosecution only called them to testify because Constand’s allegations could not stand up on their own.
Feden, however, said the testimony of those five women shows Cosby was intentional in his actions.
“He preyed on Andrea Constand in the same way he preyed on all of those five women,” Feden said. “You can use that to show that the defendant knew what he was doing. You can also use that to show that this wasn’t a mistake.”
Bliss also acknowledged that sexual assault is “a worldwide problem,” but cautioned the jury to consider Cosby’s case individually.
“Questioning an accuser is not shaming a victim. Gut feelings are not rational decisions. Mob rule is not due process,” Bliss said. “When you join a movement based primarily on emotion and anger, you don’t change a damn thing. Which is why each single case must be examined on its merits.”
Just before Mesereau took over, she said, “Never, ever let anyone or anything shame you into a conviction.”
But Feden attacked Bliss for questioning the motivations of Constand and the other five accusers.
“That character assassination that Miss Bliss put those women through was just utterly shameful,” Feden said. “She’s the exact reason why women and victims … of sexual assault don’t report these crimes.”
In his portion of the defense close, Mesereau first focused on 12 “lies” he argued Constand told in her testimony.
“They’re not inconsistencies. They’re lies,” Mesereau said. “And it happens again, and again, and again.”
He then showed the jury a list of phone calls between Cosby and Constand, pointing out 100 such calls after the time period of the alleged assault. He also noted that there were no calls from Constand’s Temple-owned cellphone to Cosby’s Philadelphia home in January 2004. Mesereau said that contradicts a previous statement from Constand in which she said she called the home the night of the assault to be let in.
“This woman will say anything. She will absolutely say anything. She’s a pathological liar,” Mesereau said.
Mesereau also listed information from Cosby’s and Constand’s travel and phone records for each day between Dec. 30, 2003, and Jan. 31, 2004. He contended that the alleged assault could not have happened on any of those days.
“If you really honor the law and honor the truth, I submit Mr. Cosby must be acquitted,” Mesereau said as he concluded his argument. “He made some mistakes for sure, but he is no criminal.”
But Ryan rebutted that point in his closing. He said phone records from Jan. 6, 2004, in particular match the pattern of phone records from March 16, 2004, when Cosby was indisputably in Philadelphia.
Ryan also said that Cosby’s own admissions in civil deposition testimony and in his contact with Constand’s mother show a consciousness of guilt, as he wrapped up a three-and-a-half hour prosecution argument.
“The defendant spent years and years and years building that bank of trust and reputation,” he said. “The time for the defendant to escape justice is over.”