Friday, April 27, 2018

Bill Cosby is convicted

I didn't follow the Bill Cosby trial, but he was just conviction based on an allegation about a romantic encounter in 2004.

The main accuser collected $3M for making the accusation. The jury was apparently persuaded by 5 other witnesses who didnt' actually witness anything about the charges, but who were used to conduct a character assassination against Cosby.

If someone is on trial for robbing a bank, the prosecution is not allowed to bring in other evidence of bad behavior unrelated to the particular bank robbing charge at issue.

Apparently the extra 5 women brought in to make the case that Cosby had a pattern of aggressively pursuing sexual encounters with women.

Cosby is also rich, black, elderly, and somewhat politically controversial. He became a symbol of the MeToo movement, so taking him down was an important priority of white feminists.

I don't think that Cosby got a fair trial.

Update: I recently listened to a couple of stupid NPR programs on black lynchings. Someday they will be talking about the Cosby trial as a modern black lynching.

Update: A defense lawyer explains:
Cosby will no doubt fight his conviction on appeal. He has the funds to hire the best talent available. Here are issues that you can expect to hear more about.

First, was his deposition testimony properly admissible? Normally, the admissions of a defendant are permitted under several exceptions to the hearsay rule. The statements may be against penal interest; they may also be admissions of a party opponent.

But in this case, Cosby gave the deposition amid what sounded like assurances that the words would not be used against him in a subsequent prosecution. The trial court held that promise void. Expect appellate lawyers to challenge that ruling.

As a practical matter, it was a mistake for Cosby to give the deposition at all. The Fifth Amendment yields a privilege against self-incrimination. Plead the Fifth. Sure, you risk an adverse inference in a civil proceeding; jurors will be told that they can hold an invocation of the Fifth against a civil litigant in certain circumstances. But better to lose a little, or even a lot, of money, then head to prison.

Next, the law is ridiculously liberal when it comes to admission of evidence of other bad acts in sex crimes. Why this special status for sex offenses? Due process requires proof of the elements of the offense for which you are charged. We generally prohibit what is known as propensity, or character, evidence. Showing a jury that a defendant committed other bad acts predisposes the jury to believe the defendant did what he is charged with doing. Such evidence is strictly limited, except in sex cases. It makes no sense to have special rules of evidence for sex cases. The parade of accusers was prejudicial. Period.

And what of the extended statute of limitations in sex cases? Try defending yourself sometime against an accusation that took place, allegedly, more than a decade ago. The statute of limitations never runs in a murder case. That’s because of the seriousness of the crime, and the fact that the decedent cannot speak. Cosby’s accusers are still very much alive. Sex, unlike murder, is ubiquitous.

Finally, the corroboration provided by the accuser’s publisher, who was permitted to testify that the accuser wanted to put allegations of Cosby’s sexual misconduct in her book, but the publisher spiked it, was most likely offered for the limited purpose of showing that the accuser wanted to make the allegation public, not for the truth of the assertion – that Cosby raped her. That’s the sort of distinction judges ask jurors to draw all the time. I have my doubts about whether jurors follow the law. This so-called constanncy of accusation evidence is a flashpoint in the law just now.

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