With a retrial of comedian Bill Cosby for alleged sexual assault scheduled to open on April 9, reporters sought perspective from Dean Daniel Filler on the likely impact of factors such as the MeToo movement on the high-profile case.
Cosby’s first trial for aggravated indecent assault ended in a mistrial in June 2017, less than four months before articles in The New York Times and the New Yorker turned a national spotlight on allegations of sexual harassment and assault of well-known actresses by former Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein. In the aftermath of those charges, allegations against scores of powerful men in diverse industries came to light and a mass movement of public and private women who reported being victimized was born under the hashtag, MeToo.
Filler, an expert on sex crimes, said the social landscape has changed markedly since Cosby’s first trial.
“In some ways the seating of the case has gotten much tougher in light of this MeToo moment,” Filler told Deadline Hollywood, in an article published April 2, as jurors were being selected in a Montgomery County courtroom. “I do think that the lawyers would love to figure out which jurors are feeling politically energized by the movement right now.”
Given the widespread coverage the first trial received, Filler said, much will depend on which aspects of the allegations jurors already have heard. Filler noted that the retrial will unfold in suburban Montgomery County, a more affluent venue than the original trial in more urban Allegheny County. Hollywood Deadline noted that while jurors in urban communities frequently distrust law enforcement witnesses, none of the potential jurors in Norristown said they are less likely to believe police.
In an article published April 6 by Agence France Presse, Filler said the MeToo movement has potential to affect the outcome of the case.
“The MeToo movement makes people much more sensitive to this problem," Filler said. "We are at a time when jurors will, I imagine, more easily believe the victims."