The media is awash with news about Bill Cosby after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction. We originally updated you about Cosby's case in October of 2020, and then we explained why the parole board denied Cosby parole. So, let's catch up on what's happened since then.
Bill Cosby's Court Case
A jury convicted Bill Cosby of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in September of 2018. Constand was a friend and a Temple University professor who claimed he drugged her, and she was unable to fend off his assault in 2004. More than 60 women have accused the popular comedian of similar assaults over fifty years, but a court has only convicted Cosby of Constand's assault.
A few years later, while Cosby was enmeshed in a civil suit from Andrea Constand, the district attorney at the time, Bruce Castor, publicly announced that he didn't intend to prosecute Cosby for Constand's assault. Castor's stated reasoning for saying this has changed over the years, but he has claimed he was attempting to ensure that Cosby couldn't invoke his right against self-incrimination during the civil suit. By removing the threat of further criminal prosecution, Cosby would be forced to answer questions about the assault in the civil case.
Later, a new district attorney reopened Cosby's case and proceeded against him for Constand's drugging and assault. During the trial, the court allowed the prosecution to admit the deposition testimony from the 2006 civil case between Constand and Cosby into evidence over the objection of Cosby's attorneys. In Cosby's deposition testimony, he admitted to “supplying women with central nervous system depressants before engaging in (allegedly unwanted) sexual activity with them.” Cosby appealed his conviction to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court based partly on the trial court's decision to allow this 2006 civil deposition testimony as evidence in his criminal trial.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Reversal
Now, in a surprising twist, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned Cosby’s conviction. The court's opinion is rife with speculation about back door dealings and the extent of prosecutorial discretion to grant immunity from prosecution. However, the meat of the court's decision focuses on District Attorney Castor's public declaration that he would not prosecute Cosby in Constand's assault.
In its 79-page opinion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Cosby relied on the DA's assurances of non-prosecution when he gave his sworn deposition testimony admitting to drugging women. The court held that it would hold Pennsylvania to the DA's promises in exchange for his deposition testimony. Therefore, the state shouldn't have prosecuted him at all in the Constand assault. “The law is clear that, based upon their unique role in the criminal justice system, prosecutors generally are bound by their assurances, particularly when defendants rely to their detriment upon those guarantees.”
Because the court's decision precludes the state from retrying Cosby on the same specific charges, it's unclear what will happen next in Cosby's case. However, he'll likely spend years in civil litigation with many women who have accused him of similar behavior.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Attorney
If you're facing a criminal charge, don't try to go through the process alone. The Pennsylvania criminal justice system can be complicated, so you need the guidance of a skilled Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. Call 888.535.3686 today to schedule a consultation, or contact the Lento Law Firm online.