Bill Cosby on Thursday asked Pennsylvania’s highest court to hear the appeal of his 2018 sexual assault conviction.
In a filing of more than 40 pages, his lawyers petitioned the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court to review last month’s unanimous decision by a panel of judges in the lower state Superior Court to uphold his conviction in the drugging and sexual assault of Andrea Constand at his home outside Philadelphia in 2004.
His lawyers said the panel had erred in supporting the trial judge’s decision on a number of issues, including allowing testimony from five other accusers.
They said Mr. Cosby, 82, had also been denied a fair trial when the case was allowed to go ahead even after a former district attorney had given what he said was a binding assurance that Mr. Cosby would not be charged in the case. Mr. Cosby is serving a three- to 10-year sentence at SCI Phoenix, a maximum-security facility outside Philadelphia.
Mr. Cosby’s case represented one of the most high-profile convictions of the #MeToo era. His lawyers said that generally, there are sometimes periods of “public panic,” when “the criminal justice system teeters on a dangerous precipice.” They said that the Cosby case had “pushed the criminal justice system of this Commonwealth, and the bedrock principles upon which it rests, to that precipice.”
The Superior Court’s ruling, his lawyers added, had “far-reaching consequences for all future criminal proceedings, including those that proceed outside the national spotlight.”
“The panel’s opinion effectively changed the controlling law and guiding principles that have existed with the Commonwealth for well over a century,” they said.
A spokesman for Mr. Cosby, Andrew Wyatt, said in a statement that Mr. Cosby’s lawyers wanted the court “to review his case to consider the vital important questions about the impact of #MeToo hysteria” on the principles of the criminal justice system.
The state’s Supreme Court does not have to take up the case, and its justices typically grant few appeals. But some experts believe that if the court decided to re-examine the case, the justices would likely review the decision to admit the testimony from so-called “prior bad acts” witnesses since their inclusion was such a potentially significant moment in any criminal trial.