How Bill Cosby's Slipping Eyesight Factors Into His Criminal Defense

Bill Cosby arriving to court NEW - H 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

In the last couple of weeks, ever since Bill Cosby was criminally charged with sexual assault, his attorney has been casually mentioning in media interviews that the embattled 78-year-old entertainer suffers from vision problems. For example, in speaking earlier this month with CBS This Morning, Cosby attorney Monica Pressley stated, "He’s a 78-year-old blind man who they’ve chosen to charge, that’s not a defense to a charge, that’s just a fact.”

Maybe it is a defense. Look no further than court papers filed by Cosby's team on Monday.

The headliner in Cosby's habeas petition (read here) is the argument that in bringing charges, the Montgomery County District Attorney has violated a non-prosecution agreement made in 2005. Cosby says that he only testified in Andrea Constand's civil lawsuit after getting assurances from the previous occupant of the D.A.'s office. His deposition came to light last year, and the D.A. credited Cosby's bombshell admissions for the ensuing investigation.

Cosby isn't just arguing that charges should be thrown out because of this fact, however. Instead, he's demanding that the case be dismissed on due process grounds.

Although Pennsylvania's lengthy 12-year statute of limitations has allowed District Attorney-Elect Kevin Steele to pursue the case against Cosby, that doesn't necessarily mean that the charges were filed in a timely fashion. The U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens a right to a trial "without unnecessary delay" and not be deprived of liberty "without due process of the law."

In Cosby's legal brief, his attorneys argue he's suffered prejudice from the delay in bringing charges. On top of the death of his former lawyer and Cosby's supposed memory issues from advancing age, they are even bringing up his slipping vision.

According to the court brief, "Mr. Cosby has lost his eyesight, hampering his ability to identify the physical appearance of witnesses, to view documents, photographs and video, and thus is limited and in many instances incapable of working with attorneys in preparation of his own defense as well as hindered in his ability to confront evidence offered against him by the District Attorney's Office."

Our guess is that the arguments being made — that the D.A. violated Cosby's 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and Cosby's 14th Amendment right to due process — aren't necessarily for the Pennsylvania magisterial district judge who will first entertain the habeas petition. After all, such judges get elected by voters. What judge in her right mind is going to pass on the chance to oversee a sex assault case getting international attention?

But these constitutional arguments could set up a lengthy appeals process that results in 78-year-old Cosby not seeing trial anytime soon. He's now arguing that the delay in bringing the case hurt him. That doesn't mean Cosby sees harm in further delay.