The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision bars any retrial.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Bill Cosby’s sex assault conviction due to an agreement made with a former prosecutor that prevented the state from charging him.
Cosby has served three years of a three-to-10 year sentence for his conviction of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand in 2004.
The case had a complicated history that began in 2005 when Constand first reported the alleged assault to then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr., who ultimately declined to file charges in this case.
But Castor’s successors reopened the case and charged Cosby in 2015, just days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired and amid a barrage of new accusations from women across the country.
At the time, Castor objected to the new prosecution, saying he’d struck a deal with Cosby and his lawyers not to prosecute him for Constand’s assault if Cosby agreed to sit for a deposition in a civil case she had filed against him.
Excerpts from that deposition were ultimately used against Cosby at trial
He was charged in late 2015, when a prosecutor armed with newly unsealed evidence — Cosby’s damaging deposition from her lawsuit — arrested him days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.
It all comes down to the 5th Amendment:
The right against compulsory self-incrimination accompanies a person wherever he goes, no matter the legal proceeding in which he participates, unless and until “the potential exposure to criminal punishment no longer exists.” Taylor, 230 A.3d at 1065. It is indisputable that, in Constand’s civil case, Cosby was entitled to invoke the Fifth Amendment. No court could have forced Cosby to testify in a deposition or at a trial so long as the potential for criminal charges remained. Here, however, when called for deposition, Cosby no longer faced criminal charges. When compelled to testify, Cosby no longer had a right to invoke his right to remain silent.
These legal commandments compel only one conclusion. Cosby did not invoke the Fifth Amendment before he incriminated himself because he was operating under the reasonable belief that D.A. Castor’s decision not to prosecute him meant that “the potential exposure to criminal punishment no longer exist[ed].” Id. at 1065. Cosby could not invoke that which he no longer possessed, given the Commonwealth’s assurances that he faced no risk of prosecution. Not only did D.A. Castor’s unconditional decision not to prosecute Cosby strip Cosby of a fundamental constitutional right, but, because he was forced to testify, Cosby provided Constand’s civil attorneys with evidence of Cosby’s past use of drugs to facilitate his sexual exploits. Undoubtedly, this information hindered Cosby’s ability to defend against the civil action, and led to a settlement for a significant amount of money. We are left with no doubt that Cosby relied to his detriment upon the district attorney’s decision not to prosecute him. The question then becomes whether that reliance was reasonable. Unreasonable reliance warrants no legal remedy.
The ruling bars any retrial: “There is only one remedy that can completely restore Cosby to the status quo ante. He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred.”DONATE
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