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Attorneys Will Factor In Impact Of #MeToo Movement In New Bill Cosby Trial

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Since Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial ended in a hung jury in June of 2017, the #MeToo movement has exploded. Women are speaking out against male abusers, and powerful men are being held to account. Cosby's retrial begins next week. Annette John-Hall of member station WHYY explores how #MeToo could impact the retrial of the once-beloved comedian.

ANNETTE JOHN-HALL, BYLINE: The facts of the Cosby trial have remained the same. Accuser Andrea Constand visited the comedian's home. She says he offered what he said were allergy pills that left her paralyzed. And that's when she alleges he assaulted her. But the world outside of the courtroom has shifted dramatically with the emergence of the #MeToo movement.

REBECCA TRAISTER: We've been forced to have a national conversation about why it is that women's versions of stories haven't been believed.

JOHN-HALL: Rebecca Traister is an author and journalist who covers feminist issues for New York magazine. She says the first Cosby trial was a preview of what's happened on a national scale.

TRAISTER: For years there were these allegations against Cosby that had been made public but that nobody really seemed to care about, right? People knew about them, but nobody really wanted to consider what they meant. Nobody really wanted to reckon with them.

JOHN-HALL: Until last fall, most of us had never heard of #MeToo. But then the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke and women from all walks of life came forward to reveal their own experiences with sexual harassment. But now the question is, how will the #MeToo conversation seep into our criminal justice system and the Cosby retrial?

GLORIA ALLRED: There's been a power dynamic shift.

JOHN-HALL: Gloria Allred is the civil rights attorney who's worked on women's issues for over 40 years and represents some of Cosby's accusers.

ALLRED: Now the persons who have been silenced, who have feared victim shaming, victim blaming, now they're speaking out. And now the accused are the ones who are afraid of being blamed and being shamed. So we're living in a new age.

JOHN-HALL: This time around, the court has allowed five additional women to testify. Along with Constand, these women will likely testify about being drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby. David Rudovsky is a Philadelphia civil rights attorney. He says all the lawyers involved in Cosby's case will have to address how the #MeToo movement will impact jurors.

DAVID RUDOVSKY: You got to meet that head on. You can't put your head in the sand and say, well, I hope these 12 jurors (laughter) you know, don't know anything about the #MeToo movement. They've heard about it.

JOHN-HALL: Cosby maintains whatever happened that night with Constand was consensual. Cosby's attorneys wouldn't talk to us. But in January, reporters got a tip that Cosby would be having dinner with friends at a local restaurant. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Laura McCrystal was there.

LAURA MCCRYSTAL: He put out his hand to shake my hand. And I said hi. And he said, please don't put me on #MeToo. I just shook your hand like a man.

JOHN-HALL: But whether he likes it or not, Cosby is in the thick of this #MeToo moment. If the 80-year-old is found guilty, he faces 10 years behind bars. For NPR News, I'm Annette John-Hall in Philadelphia.

(SOUNDBITE OF KARL HECTOR AND THE MALCOUNS' "KAIFA PART 1 AND 2")

SHAPIRO: Annette John-Hall is the host of the WHYY podcast Cosby Unraveled.

(SOUNDBITE OF KARL HECTOR AND THE MALCOUNS' "KAIFA PART 1 AND 2") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.