The entire world is talking about the reversal and ultimate dismissal of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction. There is certainly plenty to talk about but it was no-doubt, the correct decision. The nutshell summary of what led to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision is as follows:
- The initial prosecutor did not believe he had sufficient, admissible evidence that would permit a conviction of Cosby without an admission of confession.
- With criminal charges a possibility, Cosby had the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and decline to answer any questions including in a civil lawsuit for the same allegations.
- Rather than let all possibility of justice evaporate, the first prosecutor made the decision to decline to prosecute Cosby for the sexual assault accusation so that Cosby could not take the Fifth in a civil case.
- The prosecutor made a public statement and press release consistent with his declination to prosecute.
- With no threat of criminal prosecution, Cosby was not able to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent at subsequent civil lawsuit proceedings.
- Cosby provided damning admissions in four separate depositions associated with the civil lawsuit.
- The new prosecutor took over the head prosecutor’s office and decided he would not honor the decision of his predecessor.
- The new prosecutor filed the charges against Cosby.
- The new prosecutor used Cosby’s admissions obtained in the civil depositions against him in the new criminal prosecution.
- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found it violated fundamental fairness and substantive due process to allow Cosby’s conviction to stand because it was based upon the failure to honor an agreement not to prosecute Cosby in exchange for his truthful testimony in the civil lawsuits. Cosby upheld his end of the agreement, the prosecutor’s office was required to uphold their end of the agreement.
It is worth noting that Cosby’s accusers settled their civil lawsuit against him, likely for a substantial sum of money. Thus, the purpose of the initial prosecutor’s decision was fulfilled. Unfortunately, when public outcry and political aspirations become intense, some prosecutors and trial courts are overwhelmed and succumb to the mob mentality. Thankfully, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court understood the constitutional requirements of fundamental fairness in all court proceedings, including accusations against public figures in a socially and politically charged climate. The Court stayed true to the timeless and fundamental proposition of the American justice system which is that the rule of law and constitutional protections are the supreme law of our land and must always be jealously guarded and enforced.