The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear an appeal of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction.
In a brief order, the court said it would consider Cosby’s argument that the trial judge should not have allowed five women to testify about their own allegations against the comedian.
The court will also determine whether the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office violated an agreement not to prosecute Cosby, and whether the judge should have allowed his deposition testimony in a civil suit to be presented to the jury.
Cosby, 82, was convicted in April 2018 of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in 2004. He is serving a three to 10 year sentence in state prison.
In December 2019, a three-judge appellate panel denied Cosby’s upheld the sentence.
Cosby’s attorneys appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court, citing four issues. The court opted not to hear arguments on two of those issues: whether the trial judge erred in denying a hearing after a juror allegedly said he was ready to find Cosby guilty, and whether Cosby was improperly sentenced under the 2018 Sex Offender Registration Act.
The D.A.’s office argued that the Supreme Court should have let the appellate ruling stand on the other two issues as well. In a brief to the court, the D.A.’s office said that the trial judge had already exhaustively addressed Cosby’s claim that he was immune from prosecution, and ruled that he was not.
“After two days of hearings, the trial court found that there was no promise not to prosecute and that defendant did not rely on it to his detriment,” the office wrote.
The D.A.’s office also argued that Cosby’s claims about the “prior bad acts” witnesses had similarly been thoroughly reviewed, and had been shown to lack merit.
“The Panel correctly applied long-standing prior bad act principles to defendant’s run-of-the-mill evidentiary claim and concluded, based on the specific facts of this case, that the trial court properly exercised its discretion in permitting the evidence,” the office wrote. “There is no reason to revisit the Panel decision.”
Cosby’s attorneys have argued that the five witnesses’ allegations were improperly used to show a “propensity” to commit a crime, rather than to show a signature pattern of misconduct.
“Allowing multiple accusers to give evidence regarding alleged PBAs in a criminal trial flips constitutional jurisprudence on its head, and the ‘presumption of guilt,’ as opposed to the presumption of innocence, becomes the premise,” Cosby’s attorneys argued.
In a statement, Cosby’s rep said he was “extremely thankful” to the court for agreeing to hear the appeal.
“As we have all stated, the false conviction of Bill Cosby is so much bigger than him — it’s about the destruction of ALL Black people and people of color in America,” the rep said.