Due Process and the Rule of Law: Are we now guilty until proven innocent?

Bill Cosby Sentenced To 3-10 Years

In the year of the “Me Too” movement with women coming forward accusing famous men and celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby of sexual assault, years after the statute of limitations, are we now at a point in America where physical evidence no longer matters? Are we now guilty until proven innocent?

In the case of Bill Cosby, he was found guilty of drugging and raping Andrea Constand, who accused Cosby of drugging and raping her in 2004 at his home in Pennsylvania. The deciding factors against Cosby were the fact that more than 40 other women had previously accused Bill Cosby of the same predatory behavior. While most of those charges were too old to prosecute, the judge allowed the testimony of five other women, who were previously not allowed to testify, to be considered at Cosby’s retrial. This helped tip the scales of justice in favor of Constand and gave the jury enough circumstantial evidence to find Cosby guilty.

As reported following a retrial in April 2018 by USA Today:

Stuart Slotnick, a New York criminal defense lawyer who has been following the case for more than two years, said he believes there are strong grounds for appeal, based on Judge O’Neill’s still unexplained change of mind to allow five other accusers of Cosby to testify at the retrial.

“As we know from the first trial, the end of deliberations does not mean it’s over,” Slotnick said. “Was it overly prejudicial to allow five accusers to testify about uncharged crimes, thereby affecting the jury’s verdict unfairly? Clearly, one complainant and one additional accuser were not enough to procure a conviction at the first trial, and by allowing five additional women to testify, the judge really put his thumb on the scale.

“It’s possible the jurors will say they thought he was guilty because where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and there was a lot of smoke” at the retrial, Slotnick said.

In a classic he-said-she-said case, the jury would have been influenced by the other women who testified, says Los Angeles attorney Priya Sopori.

“If you put the testimonial evidence on a scale, that’s a great deal of weight, which acts to bolster Ms. Constand’s credibility and corroborate the serial nature of the defendant’s modus operandi,” Sopori said.

As for the kind of sentence Cosby could get, University at Buffalo law professor Michael Boucai said that judges weigh “mitigating” and “aggravating” factors in doling out sentences.

“Some would say that Cosby’s advanced age counsels in favor of leniency; others might see decades of comfortable impunity,” Boucai said. “Some might want to see Cosby treated more leniently in light of all the good he has done in other facets of his life; others may bristle at what they see as a particularly ugly hypocrisy.”

Steele, who failed to persuade the first jury, had a difficult job: A 14-year-old alleged sex crime. No physical or forensic evidence. An accuser who waited a year to report it. An acclaimed defendant whose iconic status garnered him support.

And there was the dauntingly high burden-of-proof standard that every prosecutor must meet in a felony case in the American criminal justice system: Persuade 12 jurors “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty and vote unanimously to convict. All it takes is one doubtful juror to change the outcome.

Cosby was charged in December 2015, just weeks before Pennsylvania’s unusually lengthy statute of limitations on sex crimes was about to expire. In the previous year, Cosby was accused by 60 women who said Cosby drugged and assaulted them in episodes dating back to the mid-1960s.

All of those accusations were too old to prosecute, except Constand’s. She did not report what she said happened to her until a year later, in 2005, but the then-district attorney said there was insufficient evidence to charge Cosby. So Constand filed a civil suit against him instead. Cosby was deposed for the suit, which was settled and sealed in 2006; as Steele revealed in his opening statement at the retrial, Cosby paid Constand $3.4 million to settle their case.

After the first Cosby accusers began coming forward in October 2014, the Associated Press went to federal court seeking that the deposition Cosby gave in the civil suit be released “in the public interest,” and they won. Steele said at his post-verdict press conference that this decision was the “decisive point” in his case.

In the deposition, Cosby acknowledged acquiring drugs, specifically quaaludes, to give to women he sought for sex. That gave county prosecutors “new evidence” to give Constand’s long-quiescent criminal case new life.

Steele, who was running for district attorney that fall, put up attack ads criticizing his opponent for failing to prosecute Cosby in 2005. He won. The following month, he charged Cosby.

The first trial took place in June 2017. After six days of testimony (the defense called only one witness and then rested) and the equivalent of five days of deliberations, it ended in a mistrial.

The retrial was different: There were 13 days of testimony and arguments and a day and a half of deliberations, and there were more witnesses who testified. Prosecutors were allowed by O’Neill to call five other accusers of Cosby — “prior bad acts” witnesses — to testify that he did the same thing to them, too.

And Cosby was allowed to call a former friend and colleague of Constand, Marguerite Jackson, who testified that Constand spoke of a plan to frame a celebrity with false accusations so she could sue and make millions. The last read-back of testimony the jury requested before delivering the verdict was about what Jackson said on the stand.

Due Process and the Rule of Law

In the end, due process was given, the rule of law prevailed, Cosby was found guilty and on, September 25, 2018, he was sentenced to three to ten years in prison.

Since Cosby admitted to drugging victims, according to his deposition in a prior civil suit and multiple women testified against him, Cosby was found guilty. In this case, due process was met and the circumstantial evidence supported the victim.

In other cases, similar to Cosby’s where the statute of limitations has expired and physical evidence doesn’t exist it appears men are becoming more likely to get charged with criminal behavior years later or they are convicted in the court of public opinion and their lives are turned upside down. In result, many states, including California, are now removing the statute of limitations against rape.

While this may seem justified to victims of sexual assault, it creates a slippery slope where men or women can be convicted of a crime years later, with no evidence. This creates a dangerous precedent, especially for men and boys in this country because they can be accused of criminal sexual behavior years later with no evidence.

It is my belief that if there is no physical or forensic evidence, or there are not enough victims or witnesses to corroborate such a crime, and/or the statute of limitations has passed, these cases should be dismissed. At a minimum, these cases could be heard in civil suits but criminal charges should not be considered and the accused’s career, integrity, and family should not be condemned.

Victims of sexual assault often say they fear reporting such cases due to threats, retaliation, self-blame, or many other circumstances, but if victims (women and men) are to be taken seriously we should be encouraging them to come forward and report such crimes immediately!

Right now this isn’t happening until years later in most cases, leading to the he said, she said scenario we are seeing today against Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. While both sides should be heard, any criminal charges or punishment should not apply unless the charges are made at the time of the assault. It’s an injustice to the accused when an accuser can come forward years later and make such accusations without evidence or corroborating witnesses, causing harm to the accused’s livelihood, family and integrity.

In the case of Bill Cosby, there were multiple women who testified to the same circumstances, Cosby admitted guilt in his civil suit deposition to using drugs to take advantage of women and the statute of limitations didn’t expire at the time Constand filed her civil and criminal suit in Pennsylvania, where the incident occurred. Therefore, Cosby was found guilty without a reasonable doubt by a jury of twelve.

However, in the case of Brett Kavanaugh, a civil nor criminal suit was ever filed and his accusers are unable to corroborate their stories. The details of such incident occurring are uncertain and the only eyewitness provided by one of the accused denied anything happened. Therefore, without any evidence, without any eyewitnesses, without multiple credible victims and/or without any prior successful civil or criminal suits against him, the accusations against Kavanaugh appear more political than accurate. In addition, since the statute of limitations has passed any civil or criminal charges do not apply. Consequently, these unproven accusations should not prevent Kavanaugh or any other person accused after the fact from being considered for employment or appointed to the SCOTUS.

As I tweeted earlier:

Patty on Twitter

Reasonable Doubt>Every person Ford identified as being at the party has signed sworn statements under penalty of perjurty that it didn’t happen, including Ford’s female friend who supposedly was there that night. https://t.co/EczesT7oH4 #Kavanaugh… https://t.co/EczesT7oH4

 

Reasonable Doubt>Every person Ford identified as being at the party has signed sworn statements under penalty of perjury that it didn’t happen, including Ford’s female friend who supposedly was there that night. http://sumo.ly/ZHNJ #Kavanaugh #Ford #SCOTUSnomineehttp://snip.ly/dy85rc

I’m not a big fan of Kavanaugh since he believes the right to abortion is set precedent, and as most know I’m not a fan of Trump. But this case is a baseless attack on someone for political reasons when he has been serving on the district court and served in numerous other high office positions in govt prior to this attack. The Democrats are trying to charge Kavanaugh with a crime, in the court of public opinion, he says he didn’t commit and because there is no evidence and there are no corroborating witnesses on her side this case would likely have been thrown out of court even if she filed against him 30years ago.

Therefore, with no witnesses, no criminal charges, no DNA/forensics this whole issue should be dismissed. Both sides have been heard but nothing has been proven by Ford or any of the other accusers. I’d prefer Trump withdraw his nomination and nominate the conservative female that was on his short list(can’t think of her name at the moment). But now that Kavanaugh has been slandered the GOP may as well appoint him and get it over with. Otherwise, his career could potentially be over thanks to these unproven claims.

In the USA we are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. A Senate judiciary meeting, media reports, and accusations are not a court of law. Kavanaugh is not on trial for a crime. For this reason, it is imperative victims of such crimes must be encouraged to report these incidents immediately and at least within the statute of limitations. Otherwise, it’s too easy for accusers to make false allegations against anyone and create doubt against the accused, leading to defamation, and retaliation by the court of public opinion. We must not let this become precedent, otherwise, our legal system will no longer recognize innocence until proven guilty, but we will become guilty until proven innocent.

 

Follow me

Littlebytesnews

Founder and Editor at Littlebytesnews.com
Patricia is the founder and editor of Little Bytes News, a former elementary teacher, radio talk show host, political activist and political blogger. In 2012, Patricia was nominated one of “Circle of Moms” top 25 political bloggers.
Follow me
Help support independent media, our contributors and keep our server online.

Littlebytesnews

Patricia is the founder and editor of Little Bytes News, a former elementary teacher, radio talk show host, political activist and political blogger. In 2012, Patricia was nominated one of “Circle of Moms” top 25 political bloggers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.