Bill Cosby Accuser Judy Huth Moves for Judge to Decide Her Case Over Jury
Plaintiffs in sexual assault cases typically opt for jurors to hear their cases over a judge, but Bill Cosby accuser Judy Huth has waived her right to a jury trial.
In a heated Friday morning hearing, attorneys for Huth and Cosby sparred over a request for L.A. Judge Craig Karlan to decide the fate of a lawsuit from Huth alleging the comedian sexually assaulted her in 1974 at the Playboy Mansion and whether Cosby’s lawyers should be allowed to depose more witnesses.
“We have not made a decision yet,” said defense attorney Jennifer Bonjean on whether her client will agree to a bench trial. “I can also represent that there are quite a few issues that have come up since our last meeting that give me great concern and frustration that, despite the fact that we were very anxious to move forward with trial in May, we’ve received disclosures and had issues that’ve come up. I was looking for a fair trial in May.”
Huth on March 8 abruptly notified the court that she wants Karlan to consider her claims instead of a jury. The move was made just months before a May 9 trial date in the case, which has been languishing in Los Angeles Superior Court since December 2014.
The delay was because Huth’s case took a backseat to Cosby’s criminal trial in Pennsylvania, where he was convicted in 2018 of drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand. The conviction was eventually overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court because of a 2005 non-prosecution agreement Cosby signed before agreeing to be deposed in a civil case.
The U.S. Supreme Court on March 7 rejected an appeal of the ruling.
During the hearing, most of which was sealed, Karlan pressed Cosby’s attorneys on whether they will agree to proceed with a bench trial.
“This is obviously a very personal decision. It’s not one I can make for my client,” Bonjean replied. “A lot has changed in the last few weeks about how this case will be tried.”
Shawn Holley, who represents high-profile entertainment clients in both criminal and civil litigation matters and isn’t involved in the case, says it’s “unusual” for a plaintiff in a sexual assault case to opt for a bench trial over a jury trial.
“One reason would be that the case turns more on legal issues than factual ones,” she said. “Another would be that the bench officer is someone who plaintiff has identified as very pro-plaintiff and feels confident that he/she will prevail before that particular bench officer.”
It remains unknown whether Huth will testify. Cosby’s attorney has requested that Huth submit to an independent mental examination to ensure she’s fit for trial.
Karlan also indicated at the hearing that the trial may be pushed back to June 20 to allow lawyers for Cosby to depose more witnesses who are appearing in an upcoming documentary about the comedian.
John West, representing Huth, adamantly opposed continuing the trial and reopening discovery.
“I don’t understand how the defendant, who is not shy about taking discovery, has been in the case for so many months without ever seeking discovery of these witnesses.”
Bonjean responded that they weren’t disclosed and that plaintiffs’ attorneys have stalled them by refusing to answer whether they represent the witnesses.