NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania—It was until close to the end of her nearly three-hour cross examination on Monday that Gianna Constand began to cry. She already seemed exhausted, several times putting her hands around her face. She had snapped back at the person questioning her, defense lawyer Kathleen Bliss, at one point responding to a question with, “Don’t talk to me like that.” But that was hardly surprising by the time it happened. Even the typically even-keeled Judge Steven O’Neill let a bit of frustration show at Bliss as she pushed Gianna Constand and the court to give her exactly she wanted.
Gianna Constand’s testimony was one of the biggest moments of last year’s criminal trial of famous comedian Bill Cosby on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, when her retorts and refusal to fall for the defense team’s line of questioning made her seem like one of the strongest parts of the prosecution’s case. But in this retrial, close to a year later, Cosby’s legal team had time to study her. Bliss was brutal in her cross examination, sparing nothing as she questioned how well Gianna Constand might even know her own daughter, Andrea, the person the entire case is about.
The closing moment in the first round of cross examination was this:
Bliss: “You and your husband raised them to be good girls.”
Gianna Constand: “Definitely.”
Bliss: “So it’s fair to say that ... it would have broke your heart to know ... that your daughter Andrea was having affair with a married man.”
Gianna Constand: “My daughter was not having an affair with a married man.”
District Attorney Kevin Steele: “Objection.”
Bliss: “You didn’t raise your daughter to have an affair with a married man.”
Bliss: “I have no further questions.”
Like last year, Gianna Constand testified about how her daughter Andrea seemed different after returning from Temple and kept having nightmares. Then one day Andrea called Gianna Constand on her way to work and told her that Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted her. Afterward, an angry Gianna Constand—she said her eyes were “like two pools of blood”—called Cosby and confronted him in a phone call.
“He said, ‘Oh I felt like I was a dirty, old, perverted man’ and then, near the end of the conversation, as before I feel like he surrendered and he admitted to me that he was a sick man,” Gianna Constand said, later recalling that Cosby’s last words to her on that call were “It took Andrea to stop him.”
Gianna Constand recorded her next phone call with Cosby, but he spoke much more vaguely in that conversation. The family also reached out to law enforcement, starting the long process of legal and judicial starts and stops that lead up to last Monday’s new trial.
But while Gianna Constand was able to dodge much of the defense’s attempts to rattle her last year, she broke down this time. On cross examination, Bliss asked round after round of questions implying that Andrea Constand was trying to break into Hollywood after college (Gianna Constand said her daughter was just trying to figure out her next step); implying that Andrea Constand was about to get fired from Temple (Gianna Constand denied this); implying that Temple was going to fire Andrea (Gianna Constand denied this); and implying that Gianna Constand got a new house out of the financial settlement her daughter reached with Cosby back in 2005 (Gianna Constand said that wasn’t true). But the intentions by the defense to instill motives of financial gain (and financial insecurity) are consistent with earlier statements from Bliss leading into the trial.
“This isn’t about money Miss Bliss!” Gianna Constand said.
Another time, Bliss tried to suggest that the changes in Gianna Constand’s daughter “could be due to financial problems, could be due to losing her job.”
“Are you trying to convince me?” Gianna Constand shot back.
“No,” Bliss told her.
“Well, you’re wrong.” Gianna Constand said. “You’re wrong. You’re wrong. You’re wrong.”
Bliss also hammered Gianna Constand, over and over again, about what exactly her family wanted to accomplish by reaching out to law enforcement and lawyers back in 2005. Bliss asked questions implying that there was something suspicious in how Gianna Constand waited until she got home from work to take action on the day her daughter first told her about the alleged assault. At one point, Gianna Constand openly asked Bliss, “Are you trying to trick me?” Another time, after Gianna Constand said “yes” to a question about if the Constands ever talked about money, she ended her answer with “that doesn’t mean anything.” Bliss asked that the comment be stricken from the record.
After the first round of cross examination was finished, Steele got up and asked a simple question: “Mrs. Costand do you have an illness?” Bliss objected. That objection was denied, and Steele asked again: “Do you suffer from Parkinson’s?” Gianna Constand confirmed. “This whole day has been difficult for you, yes?” Steele asked next.
“Yes,” Gianna Constand said, finally giving in to the tears. A minute later, Steele asked, “Do you know what he did to your daughter?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“How?” Steele asked.
“Because he told me.”
But Bliss was legally allowed one last chance to question Gianna Constand: Bliss emphasized that Cosby’s admitted no guilt in the call that Gianna Constand had recorded. She questioned Constand several times about why she didn’t sound angrier in the recording, leading up to her final question, “You wouldn’t have worried about Benadryl?”An objection on that was sustained. Afterward, Gianna Constand said, “It wasn’t Benadryl.” And then she was dismissed.
Gianna Constand’s testimony followed the cross examination of her daughter, Andrea, performed by a different defense lawyer, Tom Mesereau. In some ways, Mesereau pulled from the same playbook as the first trial. He questioned Constand about all the time she spent alone with Cosby, asking at one point, “Did you think it was appropriate to be in a married man’s room at the time?” Mesereau pointed out every little difference from various statements that Constand gave either to law enforcement or in depositions. He quizzed Constand on her many phone calls to Cosby in the months after Constand says she was assaulted and pointed out her phone calls to Cosby on Valentine’s Day of that year, doing his best to raise the perception that Constand wasn’t acting like a real victim.
But unlike last year’s legal team, Mesereau also wanted to portray Constand as a schemer out for money. He asked her more questions about her emails that, he said, showed she was part of a pyramid scheme. Mesereau also asked Constand questions about her settlement with Cosby, having Constand read sections that implied she wasn’t supposed to talk afterward, let alone participate in a criminal case. It was, overall, an even more aggressive cross examination than last year.
On redirect, prosecutor Kristen Feden asked questions to discount the defense’s arguments. Feden, through her questions, pointed out that the “pyramid scheme” emails didn’t involve an actual pyramid scheme because they sold products. And, like last year, Feden had Constand explain that many of Constand’s phone calls were her calling Cosby back after he had left her a voicemail. Constand went over the parts of her testimony where she has been consistent over the many years. And Constand also read aloud from a different portion of the settlement document, which showed that despite signing it she still was required by law to cooperate with legal measures like a subpoena.
The case will continue on Tuesday morning. It wasn’t clear who will testify next for the Commonwealth’s case.