July 1, 2021

Bill Cosby Released

“Pennsylvania’s highest court threw out Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction and released him from prison… the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Wednesday that District Attorney Kevin Steele, who made the decision to arrest Cosby, was obligated to stand by his predecessor’s promise not to charge Cosby.” AP News

Many on both sides argue that while unfortunate, the decision is correct:

“When a deposition is taken in a civil case, the right against self-incrimination allows a witness to refuse to answer any questions that might lead to criminal liability. But if there is no possibility of a criminal prosecution, then an individual cannot invoke the 5th Amendment and must answer questions. For example, the 5th Amendment privilege does not apply if a witness is granted immunity from prosecution…

“There need not be a formal immunity agreement or a promise in writing. If a prosecutor causes a person to reasonably believe that there is no chance of a criminal prosecution, any statements that are subsequently obtained must be excluded from being used as evidence. This is essential to protecting the fundamental right of not having to incriminate oneself. It would also be unfair to use statements gained in reliance on a promise not to prosecute. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the evidence was clear that Dist. Atty. Castor assured Cosby that he would not be criminally prosecuted…

“There is a cost to having a Constitution that protects the guilty as well as the innocent. But it is the only way that all of our rights can be secured from abuses by the government.”
Erwin Chemerinsky, Los Angeles Times

“The ruling isn't vindication for Cosby. Rather, it's a victory for our rights. Constitutional violations are neither good nor noble when they’re done in the name of righteousness. They’re still violations, and they’re a threat to all. Everyone, guilty and innocent alike, is entitled to his rights. Everyone is also entitled to benefit of law. It’s what separates prosecution from persecution. But if we violate certain rights for the sake of convicting the guilty, what will be left to protect the innocent? The courts must defend the constitutional rights of all people, even people like Cosby. Not for his sake, but for our own.”
Becket Adams, Washington Examiner

Both sides also criticize the initial decision in 2005 not to prosecute Cosby:

“It's true that given the year elapsed between the alleged assault and Constand coming forward, material evidence would be lacking, making a conviction more difficult. But Castor's other reasoning can be described, at best, as wildly ignorant of how sexual assault victims cope

“Castor said that Constand's attempts to coax Cosby into an admission of guilt over clandestinely recorded phone calls ‘could be interpreted as attempts by Constand and her mother to get Cosby to pay Constand so that she would not contact the authorities.’ In other words, Castor believed a criminal court would interpret Constand as a gold digger who cried rape…

“The overwhelming majority of sexual assault victims knew their attacker prior to their assault, and the overwhelming majority of those assailants are repeat offenders. As evidenced by the deluge of allegations against convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein, it's not uncommon at all for victims to remain in contact with their attackers, and if anything, Constand's phone stings demonstrated that she wanted to bring as credible a case forward as possible.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

“The prosecutor at the time didn't believe the case was winnable because it took Constand almost a year to go to the police after the alleged assault, and there was no physical evidence to back up her claims. He didn't find her credible; there were some inconsistencies in her story, he said, and he counted against her the fact that she had consulted a lawyer…

“The most generous reading of the situation is that this prosecutor correctly ascertained that it's difficult to get a conviction in sexual assault cases, and exponentially more so when the accused is a beloved man with deep pockets and the accuser is someone who didn't immediately behave the way rape victims do on television. Either way, it's an indictment – of the prosecution, of Bill Cosby, of our justice system, and of our country.”
Jill Filipovic, The Week

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