Dirty pool: On the vacating of Bill Cosby’s conviction

I did write a post about Bill Cosby’s first trial that ended in a hung jury; I did not get a chance to write about the second trial which did result in a conviction. Well, today, the guilty verdict was vacated and Bill Cosby is once again a free man.

“Dirty pool” in the post title refers to what the district attorney’s office did in this case. In 2005 Bill Cosby was compelled to give a deposition in a civil trial which, by its nature, required him to incriminate himself. The DA issued a press release stating that Mr. Cosby would not be criminally prosecuted. Mr. Cosby relied on this when giving the deposition and waiving his Fifth Amendment rights. Obviously, in 2017, the DA’s office went back on its word and proceeded to criminally charge Mr. Cosby anyway.

Back in 2017 I said:

I despise rape, sexual assault, and similar crimes, and those that partake of them. However, I also believe that everyone is entitled to a fair trial and to their day in court when accused.

I still believe that today. Knowing what I know today, however, it is painfully obvious to me that the entire premise upon which Mr. Cosby was tried and convicted was flawed and that there is no way the trial could possibly have been fair. If, as a DA, you give your word you won’t prosecute someone based on their civil trial testimony, you’re legally committed to keeping your word. This doesn’t establish that Mr. Cosby is innocent; if anything, it establishes quite the opposite.

I want to address the argument that this is a “technicality”. I really dislike the use of this term as it is often used to belittle flagrantly (and even egregiously) unfair acts undertaken by district/people’s attorneys (at least, usually). People may call this a technicality, but if you were to reframe it in terms of something happening to them, personally, they would say there’s no way that would be fair to them.

When you’re the accused, there are no “technicalities”. Bill Cosby never should have stood trial in 2017, much less been convicted. This doesn’t excuse what Mr. Cosby did, but it is positively putrid and vile that the district attorneys in question thought it would be okay to go back on their word.

It is most emphatically not okay.

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