Appeal Hearing for Bill Cosby’s Sexual Assault Conviction Begins

Bill Cosby departs the Montgomery County Courthouse on the first day of sentencing in his sexual assault trial on Sept. 24, 2018 in Norristown, Penn.
Bill Cosby departs the Montgomery County Courthouse on the first day of sentencing in his sexual assault trial on Sept. 24, 2018 in Norristown, Penn.
Photo: Mark Makela (Getty Images)

Bill Cosby’s appellate team (Kristen Weisenburger and Barbara Zemlock) is hoping to throw out his sexual assault conviction at an appeal hearing scheduled for Monday, Aug. 12.


On April 26, 2018, Cosby was found guilty of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004.

According to Forbes, Cosby’s team has cited the five additional witnesses who testified in 2018 as the basis of their argument to throw out the conviction; they argue that the trial judge shouldn’t have allowed them to testify.

Cosby is set to appear before a three-judge Pennsylvania appellate panel, two of whom are women.

As USA Today reports:

If the decision goes against Cosby – meaning the three-count guilty verdict and the three-to-10 year sentence is affirmed – then Cosby stays in his prison cell near Philadelphia and his lawyers can try to persuade the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear his appeal.

But the high court doesn’t have to take the case and there is no guarantee it will.

The 82-year-old actor and comedian is considered to be the first celebrity convicted after Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement gained mainstream traction. Due to its high-profile nature, Harvey Weinstein’s legal team is expected to pay close attention to the appeal hearing and its results, according to the Associated Press.

It’s uncertain whether or not the judging panel will issue a decision on the date of the hearing. The duration of the decision-making process is also unknown at this time.


Cosby is currently serving a three- to 10-year prison term in Pennsylvania.

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The hearing today is oral argument on the appellate briefs previously submitted. The three judge panel very likely won’t rule from the bench and Cosby will stay in lock-up. If the panel finds error and sends it back for a re-trial and/or more findings of fact that doesn’t necessarily mean Cosby gets out. There are a number of issues in the appeal. The first concerns evidence rule 404(b) (not sure what Pennsylvania’s version is), but basically prior bad acts generally aren’t admissible unless similar to the acts in the present case or to show MO. Drugging previous victims and raping them would seem to easily fall within the rule and I was surprised in the first trial when the judge excluded corroborating rape testimony. Easy win for the Commonwealth I’d think on that issue. There’s a statute of limitations and immunity sort of issue too. That looks kind of complicated. Not sure the judge letting the jury decide a statute of limitations question was a good idea though. That one’s a toss up. Maybe harmless error comes into play. If not, a SOL violation ends it all and Cosby walks free, but perhaps only after the Commonwealth appeals to the Supreme Court of PA* and loses there. That could take a while. Then there’s some messy issues with the jurors. Courts like to presume the jurors did the right thing so I give the Commonwealth a slight edge on those issues. There’s also an expert witness issue and improper use of statistics by the expert. Couldn’t tell if that was properly raised at trial. If so could be a problem for the Commonwealth. I would hope Cosby doesn’t see the light of day until after his three years are up even if he wins on appeal. His attorneys’ goal is to obviously get it reversed, get him out, delay the new trial as long as possible (Bill’s sick- can hear it already) and run out the clock on Cosby’s life. We’ll see.

* if that’s allowed in PA.