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Criminal Defense: Cosby and the concept of “similar transactions”

Criminal Defense: In criminal trials, prosecutors will often attempt to bring in prior convictions or prior bad acts in trial as a way to persuade jurors as to a defendant’s guilt. These are fights that our fought before trial in pretrial hearings. The case against actor Bill Cosby is a great example of a prosecutor trying to get in prior bad acts. Cosby faces sexual assault charges in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Today, the prosecutor attempted to win a preliminary hearing arguing for the testimony of more than twelve women to testify at Cosby’s upcoming trial. The prosecutor argued a concept that we use in Georgia of “similar transactions”. If the judge allows this testimonry to come in, it will ease the prosecutor’s burden of showing intent and it will most definitly bolster the prosecution’s case against Cosby. In Georgia, these “other acts”, like in Pennsylvania, need to be similar enough so that they show the “handiwork of the same perpetrator,” (the PA prosecutor’s words from today) and the limited purpose of showing the defendant’s state of mind, knowledge, intent, or mode of operation in the crime charge (Georgia). In both states, the judge will focus on the similarities versus the differences in making his/her decision in allowing similar transactions in.

Interestingly, the prosecutor has a tough burden in the Cosby case. The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court recently ruled against allowing too many victims testifying. What is a good limit? The judge will probably rule on this issue today.

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