How Bill Cosby's defense team's vicious strategy backfired: ANALYSIS

PHOTO: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby reacts while being notified a verdict was in in his sexual assault retrial, April, 26, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.PlayMark Makela/Pool Photo via AP
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Even in defeat, disgrace and public humiliation, they kept on coming after the women.

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In an extraordinary post-trial interview on Friday with “Good Morning America” chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, Cosby representatives Andrew Wyatt and Ebonee Benson called one juror a racist and suggested that one Cosby accuser and a friend who say they were drugged and assaulted had initially gone to visit the comedian because they “enjoy big, black men.”

Stephanopoulos seemed to wince, and asked her, “Do you really want to go there?”

She did.

PHOTO: Bill Cosbys publicist Ebonee Benson and lawyer Andrew Wyatt discuss Cosbys sexual assault trial and verdict on Good Morning America, April 27, 2018. ABC News
Bill Cosby's publicist Ebonee Benson and lawyer Andrew Wyatt discuss Cosby's sexual assault trial and verdict on Good Morning America, April 27, 2018.

Benson went on to compare Cosby’s conviction on three counts of felony sexual assault on Thursday to the fate of Emmett Till, the 14-year old Mississippi child brutalized and murdered in 1955 for whistling at a white woman -- a false claim debunked years after the murder by the woman who made the claim in the first place.

“This became a public lynching,” Wyatt said of the trial. “The South came to the East.”

A number of Cosby’s dozens of accusers are African-Americans, as are Benson and Wyatt.

PHOTO: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby exits Montgomery County Courthouse after a jury convicted him in a sexual assault retrial in Norristown, Penn., April 26, 2018.Brendan McDermid/Reuters
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby exits Montgomery County Courthouse after a jury convicted him in a sexual assault retrial in Norristown, Penn., April 26, 2018.

Employing a vicious defense strategy that sought to exploit race, gender, age and social activism, Cosby’s defense team went low early and kept on going -- launching stunning, mostly unfounded broadsides against the judge, the prosecutor, the witnesses and the jurors -– and openly mocked the widely accepted scholarship of a renowned expert on sexual assault.

Mocking Science

In a powerful, tactical move, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, prosecutors Kevin Steele, Kristen Feden and Stewart Ryan chose as their first witness in the retrial Dr. Barbara Ziv -- a sexual assault expert who testified that significant statistical evidence has shown that most sexual assault victims respond differently to attacks than victims of other crimes.

Anticipating withering defense cross-examinations from celebrity defense attorney Tom Mesereau and co-counsel Kathleen Bliss, the move aimed to give some measure of protection to the succession of six women who would follow, each testifying that Cosby drugged and sexually violated them.

District Attorney Steele knew jurors needed to first understand the degree of lasting trauma sexual violence can inflict before listening to the graphic stories they were about to hear, a colleague told ABC News.

Ziv testified that “the vast majority of victims of sexual assault do not report to authorities,” and that sexual assault reporting can be delayed “from days to weeks to months to years.”

She explained how common counter-intuitive behavior is in victims of sexual violence, and how they rarely act the way you would think they would.

PHOTO: Bill Cosby, center, leaves with publicist Ebonee Benson, left, and spokesperson Andrew Wyatt for the day from his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse, April 18, 2018, in Norristown, Pa.Corey Perrine/AP
Bill Cosby, center, leaves with publicist Ebonee Benson, left, and spokesperson Andrew Wyatt for the day from his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse, April 18, 2018, in Norristown, Pa.

“Most people don’t fight back, don’t say anything, and don’t, you know, immediately, when it’s over, don’t jump up and leave,” Ziv said. “They are in a state of shock, that’s how they describe it.

“The most common scenario is that when someone is being sexually assaulted, they’re sort of frozen, they don’t know what’s happening ... but they can take their time before they end the situation," she added. "That’s usually the pattern in the majority of sexual assaults.”

During closing arguments, Bliss characterized Ziv’s testimony as nonsense.

“We are not snowflakes,” the former federal prosecutor told jurors in her deep Oklahoma drawl. “We are not delicate flowers, and so this rape myth that someone like Dr. Ziv would ask you to buy into –- where if she says X, it’s rape; if she says Y, it’s rape; if she says Z, it’s rape.

"Whatever she says, don’t worry about the details,” Bliss continued sarcastically. “Don’t corroborate her. Don’t check her out.”

Shaming women

In some ways, the defense strategy was as simple as it was anachronistic: destroy the accuser’s credibility, shame her supporting witnesses and ridicule emerging science on the truly caustic effects of sexual assault on both the bodies and the psyches of victims.

Mesereau called Andrea Constand -- whose sexual assault case led to Cosby's conviction -- a “con artist” and a “pathological liar” so wily and deceptive that “you would need pliers to pull the truth from this woman.”

He accused her of “destroying the physical evidence” that could have proved Cosby innocent -- by not coming forward for a year after the alleged attack.

An email she cut, pasted and forwarded in college to one person became a “pyramid scheme.” Allegations of decades-old use of hallucinogens became an “addict[ion] to magic mushrooms.”

Constand acknowledged under cross-examination that she had been in Cosby’s hotel room at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut late one night after he invited her to the resort to see him perform.

PHOTO: Andrea Constand walks to the courtroom during Bill Cosbys sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., June 6, 2017. Matt Rourke/AP
Andrea Constand walks to the courtroom during Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., June 6, 2017.

“Did you think it appropriate that you be in a married man’s room in a hotel in Connecticut at that time of night?” Mesereau pressed.

Constand calmly replied that she was summoned to the room by the comedian to get some “baked goods that Mr. Cosby wanted to give me.”

She said she left the room within 10 minutes.

At another point, Mesereau suggested that Constand had violated the terms of her $3.38 million dollar settlement with Cosby by testifying, when a close reading of the language in subsequent questioning by Feden revealed that the attorney had left out a key element of the agreement -- and that Constand hadn’t violated the terms at all.

The five additional accusers came under equally lethal scrutiny.

In one of the most remarkable moments in the trial, Bliss told jurors that former supermodel and witness Janice Dickinson was a “failed starlet” and an “aged-out model” who sounded “like she had slept with every single man on the planet.”

“Is Ms. Dickinson really the moral beacon that the women’s movement wants?” she wondered aloud.

PHOTO: Tom Mesereau, back right, and Kathleen Bliss, lawyers for actor and comedian Bill Cosby, arrive for the closing arguments at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, PA, April 24, 2018.Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images
Tom Mesereau, back right, and Kathleen Bliss, lawyers for actor and comedian Bill Cosby, arrive for the closing arguments at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, PA, April 24, 2018.

A sweet-voiced Midwestern grandmother named Heidi Thomas was painted as desperate for attention after a bid in her early-20s to become an entertainer.

Thomas finally got her wish, Bliss told jurors sarcastically, after getting to testify before the national press in a high-profile trial.

“She’s now living the dream, ladies and gentlemen," Bliss mocked.

Thomas had earlier testified to being summoned at the age of 24 to an empty home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, for acting coaching, only to be drugged by Cosby and wake up in groggy horror and confusion. He forced himself onto her, she testified.

When accuser Janice Baker-Kinney denied repeatedly under cross-examination to conspiring with Constand against the star during a chance meeting at a women’s march last year, Mesereau openly mocked her.

“Are you rolling your eyes at me?” she demanded of the attorney, who without a moment’s hesitation shot back “yes,” drawing gasps from the gallery.

Under cross-examination, Chelan Lasha sobbed as she was called a liar who was convicted a decade earlier of making a false statement to police in an unrelated case.

Bliss portrayed all of them as having made up stories and come forward for “money, press conferences, TV show, salacious coverage, ratings.”

She paused for effect and concluded dismissively, “Sex sells.”

Taking on the judge

The circle-the-wagons defense strategy sought to impugn the motivations of all comers.

Judge Steven T. O’Neill denied a pre-trial motion by the prosecution to recuse himself from the case because his wife counsels college sexual assault victims and once may have made a $100 donation to a campus group. The group later made a donation to another campus group that had recently announced plans to protest Cosby outside of court.

The protest never materialized, and neither did the recusal.

PHOTO: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby reacts while being notified a verdict was in in his sexual assault retrial, April, 26, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.Mark Makela/Pool Photo via AP
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby reacts while being notified a verdict was in in his sexual assault retrial, April, 26, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.

In issuing his ruling, O’Neill accused the defense of trying to “trivialize” his wife’s work, and -- in a voice cracking with emotion -- he ultimately declared that “I am my own individual in making decisions here, and my wife’s personal beliefs and professional pursuits and what she does for a living are just of no consequence.”

After appearing to choke up, O’Neill apologized to the court “if emotions become a part of [this]."

“But it’s a difficult thing if the parties choose to bring the families into it," he added.

Playing the race card

During jury selection, Bliss claimed a peremptory strike of an African American woman demonstrated racial discrimination, even though two of the eight jurors by then impaneled were also black.

After a break, Bliss returned to court to claim to the judge that a member of her team had just overheard a Cosby prosecutor making a “repulsive” racially discriminatory remark.

PHOTO: Bill Cosbys attorney Tom Mesereau arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse for day fourteen of his sexual assault retrial, as the jury deliberates for the second day, April 26, 2018 in Norristown, Pa.Mark Makela/Getty Images
Bill Cosby's attorney Tom Mesereau arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse for day fourteen of his sexual assault retrial, as the jury deliberates for the second day, April 26, 2018 in Norristown, Pa.

An exasperated Steele called the claim “ludicrous” as one of his assistant district attorneys stormed out of court. The issue was never raised in open court again, and representatives for the prosecution, the defense and court administrators all declined to comment at the time.

On Friday morning, Wyatt was still litigating a failed pre-trial bid to have a different juror thrown out for, again, being overheard making a racist comment.

The actual remarks, if any, were never made public by the court, and Judge O’Neill rejected the defense motion bid to strike that juror from the pool.

But by then it was too late, Benson told Stephanopoulos on Friday.

“The bias was already there,” she said.

Asked whether the scores of women who have accused Cosby in recent years of sexual violence could really all be lying, Benson was ready with her own questions.

“Since when are all people honest?" she asked. "Since when are all women honest?”

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