Happy Friday everybody, hope you had a great week. This week some big news hit just the other day with Bill Cosby. His conviction overturned or being released from jail. I’m sure that most of you read those headlines. So I wanted to do a quick video on my understanding of why that happened. Why, in my opinion, that was the right move even though it might have been the morally wrong move. And then kind of give you my thoughts on it.
So first wanted to open this video with a couple of caveats. The first, really, really, really big one is that I don’t practice law in Pennsylvania. I practice law in Texas. So I’m speaking based on my understanding of what the Pennsylvania law is. I got most of that understanding from the opinion, it is a very lengthy opinion that the Pennsylvania Supreme court issued in this case. It’s about 74 pages. I will link a link to it right down here below so you can go check it out if you want to read it. It’s very well-written, very detailed, and thorough, and it kind of walks you through the court’s process. That’s the big caveat there.
The second is that, just like all these videos, I’m not involved actively in this case. I haven’t seen everything. I haven’t read everything. I’ve kind of read this and follow this on a surface level. So I’m trying to, I do these videos just to kind of give you my off-the-cuff thoughts. They’re not super deep dives into the nuances and issues of any individual case. They’re just kind of my thoughts, they are discussion starters or what have you, so keep those two things in mind.
So with Bill Cosby, based on my understanding of what happened here is when the allegations, the sexual assault allegations, first came to light back in 2004, 2005, the then district attorney, a guy by the name of Caster investigated those claims. He came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, and you can take issue with this decision. He came to the decision that those claims would be difficult if even possible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, he was concerned that if these claims were to go to a criminal trial he would lose the criminal trial.
So he made the decision back then to try to afford, in his words, afford some justice to the victim to come out and say, they will not be prosecuting Bill Cosby whatsoever for these crimes because the criminal case can’t be won. And he did so in a signed press release that he issued.
Now his thought process in doing that is pretty interesting. If somebody sues you civilly and you are concerned about criminal implications of those allegations, or if you have pending criminal charges based on those allegations, you obviously have a fifth amendment right not to show up and give your deposition and provide your testimony, because you have a right against self-incrimination.
The DA’s thought was that if I say, “He’s not going to be charged, therefore he has no criminal exposure. He can’t use that fifth amendment protection to evade civil depositions,” and that’s exactly what happened. Bill Cosby was forced to give depositions, four of them actually, in the civil case brought by the victim. He had to answer questions. He had to answer subpoenas, all that good stuff. And based on those, he eventually reached a settlement with the victim in the civil case.
Fast forward, a new DA comes in and decides that they’re not going to honor that agreement that the district attorney made with Mr. Cosby, and instead they are going to use some of those statements and admissions that Mr. Cosby made in his deposition to prosecute him criminally. And that’s what happened.
Now, Bill Cosby filed motions trying to suppress those depositions. They were denied. It has worked its way up the appellate court, but ultimately the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said, “You can’t do that.” If you, district attorney, made an agreement to not prosecute somebody with the intent of getting them to waive their constitutional rights. You can’t go back and renege on that promise because that has constitutional civil rights violation implications. It has all kinds of knowing and voluntary implications, it’s just a bad deal.
So that’s really the basis for why this conviction was overturned. And to be honest, in my opinion, this is a perfect example or a perfect illustration of the answer I give when people ask me, “How do you defend somebody that you know is guilty?” My typical go-to answer is, “Well remember that a big part of my job is not just defending the person it’s defending the system,” and what I mean by that is, if I am the best lawyer I can be, if the defense lawyer on the case is the best lawyer he or she can be and they do everything they can to defend their client.
Even if they are guilty as sin, it forces the DA’s, it forces the prosecutors to be on the top of their game and to not make this kind of a mistake, that they know they shouldn’t make. Because then if they are ever faced with a situation where they’re trying to prosecute somebody who is innocent, they won’t have the habit of doing these things they know they shouldn’t be able to get away with. Because these constitutional rights are just as important to somebody who is very guilty as they are to somebody who was very innocent.
So that’s like I said, this is kind of that perfect illustration of why it’s so important to have good defense lawyers that are doing everything they can to represent even the most guilty of clients. Because what it does is it forces that system to check itself, to regulate itself, and to make sure those rules are in place so that when an innocent person finds themselves in that situation, they have those rights. They have those rules in place. They have those safeguards that we fought so hard to make sure stay in place.
So again, those are some quick and dirty thoughts on the situation. It is very interesting. This is not me coming out and saying that I’m glad Bill Cosby is out of jail. I’m certainly not saying that this is simply me saying that in looking at this from a distance and analyzing what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did, I fully understand the logic behind it. I agree that I think legally speaking, it is the right decision. It is an interesting opinion to go read. I highly recommend everybody go check it out.
As always, if there’re any questions about this, or you have any thoughts about this, I’m always looking forward to hearing from you guys, whether it’s in the comments section or via an email or a phone call. I may not respond to every single comment I see, but I do read them.
So let me know what your thoughts are. Like I said, I’m sure that this is going to be a controversial decision. There’re going to be a lot of heated emotions on both sides of this, but I am interested in reading them.
So hope you all have a great week and a good holiday. I’m posting this a day early so we can get this holiday weekend started. I look forward to seeing you all next week, stay safe out there and we’ll talk to you soon.