Previously banned witness who calls main Cosby accuser a liar will get to testify

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Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Tuesday, April 3, 2018, in Norristown, Pa. (Corey Perrine/AP Photo)

Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Tuesday, April 3, 2018, in Norristown, Pa. (Corey Perrine/AP Photo)

Updated: 5:47 p.m.

Bill Cosby’s legal defense team had two major wins Tuesday when the judge in the case cleared the way for new evidence favorable to the 80-year-old comedian.

Judge Steven O’Neill ordered that a woman who says accuser Andrea Constand framed Cosby with a made-up sexual assault claim to extort him will be allowed to testify.

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Legal filings show that the defense plans to use the woman, Margo Jackson, in an attempt to discredit Constand, characterizing her as a greedy liar.

The decision is significant because O’Neill blocked Jackson from taking the stand during last year’s trial that failed to produce a verdict. And Jackson’s story is crucial to  Cosby’s new legal defense, as it supports the argument that Constand always harbored a cynical scheme to smear Cosby for her benefit.

O’Neill did not explain his reasoning in his one-page opinion for reversing his previous decision, although when the defense asked for permission to call Jackson to the stand last year, it happened mid-trial and lawyers did not have an opportunity to fully debate it.

In a motion pushing for Jackson’s appearance, defense lawyers said putting her on the stand will show that Constand had a financial motive to lie. It will also enable the defense team to hammer into Constand’s credibility as the complaining witness.

Jackson worked with Constand at Temple University close to the time of the alleged 2004 sexual assault at Cosby’s Cheltenham home.

Jackson has said that while traveling with Constand for work, the two shared a hotel room in Rhode Island, where they watched a television news report focused on a famous person being the victim of a false sexual assault claim.

According to Jackson’s sworn testimony, Constand said she could make a similar claim based on something that happened to her as a way to “get money to go to school and open a business.”

When Constand took the stand during the first trial, she claimed she did not know Jackson, but the jury did not hear any additional information about Constand’s former colleague, or about any interactions the two supposedly had. Prosecutors then argued that questions that dug deeper into the hotel room conversation were hearsay.

In a later interview, Constand backtracked from her testimony, claiming instead that she did have some contact with Jackson when they worked at Temple.

Also on Tuesday, O’Neill ordered that the amount Constand received in a 2006 civil settlement against Cosby, reportedly in the millions, will be presented to the jury.

That amount was not permitted to come into last year’s trial.

The judge rejected a request for the jury to hear details of settlement negotiations, where Cosby allegedly said he wanted evidence in the civil settlement destroyed and sought to ensure Constand would never press criminal charges against him. The jury will now never hear that part of the settlement process, presenting a further roadblock to the prosecutor’s case.

Early on Tuesday, the second day of jury selection, both sides agreed on an additional six jurors: two older white women, a middle-aged African-American woman, a white man who appeared to be in his late 30s, a 20-something African-American male, and a white man in his 50s, bringing the total jurors now seated to seven.

On Monday, more than half of the first pool of 120 potential jurors indicated they had already formed an opinion about Cosby’s guilt or innocence, based on what they learned about the allegations in the news. On Tuesday, among the second pool, it was two-thirds.

Prosecutors and the defense team are hoping they can select 12 jurors, and six alternates, before opening statements are scheduled to begin on Monday.  Jury selection continues Wednesday.

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