What's Different About Bill Cosby's Sexual Assault Retrial?

Bill Cosby was in court Monday for the first day of his sexual assault retrial.

As the actor and comedian arrived at the court in Norristown, Pennsylvania, for the opening statements, he was confronted by a topless protester with "Women's Lives Matter" and the name of feminist group Femen painted across her body. She was taken into custody.

Cosby stands accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Temple University basketball manager Andrea Constand 14 years ago.

The trial takes place less than a year since a 12-member jury in the June 2017 trial failed to reach a verdict after 52 hours of deliberation. The presiding judge remains Steven O'Neill, but many other circumstances have changed.

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A protester is escorted away by police as Bill Cosby arrives for the first day of his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on April 9. Jessica Kourkounis/Reuters

For one, Cosby has hired a new attorney, Tom Mesereau—known for defending Michael Jackson in his 2005 child molestation trial—to lead his defense team. Also, O'Neill is now allowing the prosecution to call five of the 13 women mentioned in the suit, who have accused the actor of drugging and abusing them.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the cultural environment in which the trial takes place, one heavily marked by months of national and international discussions surrounding the treatment of sexual harassment and assault survivors as part of the #MeToo movement.

In the jury selection process, prospective jurors had to face questions about whether #MeToo had affected them, as well as whether they had formed opinions about the allegations in the well-publicized case and whether any of their close family members had suffered sexual assault, Sky News reported. The selection produced a jury similar in demographics to the previous one: seven men and five women; 10 white people and two African-Americans (a man and a woman).

Cosby has maintained that his sexual contact with Constand was consensual, and his defense is expected to portray her accusations as financially motivated. It will call a woman to testify who claims Constand talked about framing a celebrity for financial gain.

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Bill Cosby arrives for the first day of his sexual assault retrial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on April 9. Jessica Kourkounis/Reuters

Constand is one of nearly 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct spanning decades. She first went to the police in 2005 to report the alleged assault, which occurred the previous year. The police dropped the investigation, but she later filed a civil lawsuit citing 13 Jane Does who made similar accusations. The case was settled out of court a year later, with both Cosby and Constand signing a nondisclosure agreement.

In July 2015, Constand asked to unseal the deposition in the suit on the grounds that Cosby violated the agreement. In snippets of Cosby's deposition published in The New York Times, the actor once considered "America's dad" admitted to procuring Quaaludes to give to women whom he wanted to have sex with—but said he did not take them himself because they made him sleepy. The Montgomery Court district attorney then decided to reopen the decade-old investigation, citing the unsealed deposition as new evidence in the case.