Cosby used his fame to ingratiate himself with women he drugged and assaulted, the prosecutor says. (Reuters: Matt Rourke/Pool)
Comedian Bill Cosby’s trial in the United Sates has been full of theatrics and courtroom drama very different to the static, more reserved scenes we’re used to in Australia.
Cosby is charged with assaulting Andrea Constand, a former employee of Temple University’s basketball program, at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004.
The trial began with Cosby shuffling into court with a cane, helped by his TV daughter from the Cosby Show.
Celebrity lawyers representing some of the dozens of alleged victims also arrived, one even with her own camera in tow.
Previous alleged victims gave interviews outside, breaking the iron-clad Australian rule that media report only on what happens in court.
Inside, the divergent legal styles became clearer — assistant district attorney-general Kristen M Feden opened the much anticipated trial by prowling the space between the jury and Cosby.
At times she came within a metre of one of the world’s most famous entertainers as she told the jury he was a sexual predator who used his fame and power to ingratiate himself with women he then drugged and sexually assaulted.
And she appealed directly to the hearts and minds of the jury, often pausing to look each of them in the eye as she battled to make her case.
Having described Ms Constand’s state after taking the pills Cosby supplied, Ms Feden moved in for the kill, describing how Cosby sexually assaulted Ms Costand.
Pizza and pleas for understanding
Defence lawyer Brian McMonagle, meanwhile, is a former prosecutor and a more experienced court room performer.
In the past he’s even been photographed assisting Cosby into court as they paint the 79-year-old as an ailing old man who claims to be legally blind.
Mr McMonagle used his address the jury to discuss fatherhood and try to strike up a rapport with the men and women who will decide his client’s fate.
At times his voice rose several octaves as he made an emotional appeal to the jurors to acquit a man he says has been wrongly accused.
“Sexual assault is a terrible crime, it takes away dignity … the only thing that is worse than that is the false accusation of sexual assault,” he said.
His client’s infidelities, he argued, had left him open to accusations that were untrue.
At lunch time, the Cosby team appeared to get a pizza delivered to fortify them for the afternoon — and presumably to shield the entertainer from another walk past the cameras.
Andrea Constand was asked questions not put to alleged sexual assault victims in Australia. (Reuters: Matt Rourke/Pool)
‘This is why rape survivors don’t come forward’
The testimony of the prosecution’s first witness also made for dramatic scenes.
Cosby was hanging on every word as Kelly Johnson alleged the comedian supplied her with a pill and sexually assaulted her in a very similar way to Ms Costand,
The comedian would often whisper to his lawyers sitting next to him.
Then, after Ms Johnson had been led gently through her testimony by prosecutors, she faced a brutal cross-examination.
She even appeared to face questions alleged sexual assault victims no longer endure in Australia, including the question of whether she used drugs at all at any time in the 1990s.
She answered no, but it seemed to anger the increasingly incredulous Mr McMonagle, and it became increasingly tense between the rival lawyers.
Outside court, rape victim advocate Caroline Heldman said attacks on alleged assault victims over delays in reporting incidents to police and attempts to paint them as lying drug users showed the system needed reform.
“This is why rape survivors don’t come forward because you paint them as liars,” Dr Heldman said.
Cosby himself has opted not to testify.
The case will instead hinge on the testimony of the prosecution’s star witness Ms Constand.
Judging by the courtroom theatrics on the trial’s opening day, she can expect an even tougher time.
Bill Cosby leaves leaves court with his spokesman Andrew Wyatt (right) and lawyer Brian McMonagle. (Reuters: Brendan McDermid)