Bill Cosby Walks Free Due to a Technicality

In a stunning reversal on Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Cosby’s sexual assault conviction, and he was allowed to walk free just hours later.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which overturned Mr. Cosby’s conviction, wrote that a “non-prosecution agreement” that had been struck with Bruce L. Castor Jr., the former district attorney, meant that Bill Cosby should not have been charged in the case for which he was convicted and sentenced in 2018. The court also barred a retrial. Read the full 79-page opinion.

According to the Associated Press, District Attorney Kevin Steele, who had seen to Cosby’s arrest, had actually been obligated to uphold his predecessor’s promise to not charge Cosby. Steele’s predecessor made this promise when Cosby gave incriminating testimony in the civil suit of Andrea Constand, who accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her several decades ago. However, the AP reports that there is no evidence this promise by the former district attorney was ever put in writing.

The court also wrote that the trial judge at Cosby’s trial, who had first allowed just one of his other accusers to testify, before allowing five other accusers to testify about their alleged experiences with Cosby in the 1980s, had tainted the trial by doing so. However, a lower appeals court in Pennsylvania says it was appropriate for the prosecution to call these witnesses to show a pattern in Cosby’s alleged behaviors.

Reaction to the ruling was swift, with organizations that aid survivors, as well as elected leaders, largely panning the decision to overturn Cosby’s sentence and painting it as a miscarriage of justice.

“We are deeply disappointed in today’s ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and by the message, this decision sends to the brave survivors who came forward to seek justice for what Bill Cosby did to them,” Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network President Scott Berkowitz said in a statement. “This is not justice.”