Bill Cosby’s lawyers put on a case consisting of just one witness and six minutes of testimony Monday, wrapping up the defence side in the sexual assault trial without the comedian himself taking the stand.
The jury was expected to hear closing arguments next and could get the case in the afternoon.
The big question going into Monday’s proceedings was whether Cosby would testify – a high-stakes gamble that could have allowed him to work his charm on the jury but could have also exposed him to blistering cross-examination about some of the scores of other women who say they were assaulted by the comic once known as America’s Dad.
With Cosby’s wife of 53 years, Camille, looking on in the courtroom for the first time in the 6-day-old trial, the TV star ended the suspense by telling a judge that he had decided not to take the stand after talking it over with his lawyers.
Judge Steven O’Neill asked Cosby a series of questions designed to make sure he was aware of his right to testify and wasn’t pressured into deciding against it. Cosby spoke loudly as he answered, responding “YES!” or “NO!”
The lone defence witness was the detective who led the 2005 investigation into allegations that Cosby drugged and violated Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
Detective Richard Schaffer was one of 12 witnesses who testified during the prosecution case. In his six-minute appearance Monday, Shaffer said that Constand had visited with Cosby at an out-of-state casino and that police knew he had vision problems more than a decade ago. Cosby has said he is legally blind because of glaucoma.
The judge shot down a defence request to call a second witness, a woman who worked with Constand at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University.
Cosby, 79, could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted. He has said the sexual encounter with Constand was consensual.
Constand, a 44-year-old former employee of the women’s basketball program at Temple, testified last week that Cosby gave her three blue pills and then penetrated her with her fingers against her will as she lay paralyzed and half-conscious.
Cosby’s spokesman suggested last week that the comic might take the stand. But experts said the legal risks would be considerable.
“He could be a fantastic witness. … He’s an actor and he’s a very good actor,” Duquesne University School of Law professor Wes Oliver said ahead of Monday’s court session. But “he is potentially opening the door to a whole lot of cross-examination that they fought really hard to keep out.”
Prosecutors wanted 13 other accusers to testify at the trial, but the judge allowed just one, an assistant to his agent at the William Morris Agency.
Cosby’s testimony in her civil case showed just how hard a witness he would have been to control. His answers, like his comedy routines, meandered and veered toward stream of consciousness.
And he used jarring language to describe his sexual encounters with various young women. He spoke in the deposition of “the penile entrance” and “digital penetration.” And he displayed hints of arrogance.
“One of the greatest storytellers in the world and I’m failing,” Cosby said when asked to repeat an answer in the deposition.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.