“Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’”
That’s a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. It’s comforting to those who believe that, if you wait long enough, you will be vindicated. Those who seek immediate justice, however, reject the notion that you must wait to have your name cleared, your goods returned to you, your convictions erased.
Bill Cosby might fall into the latter group, given his advanced age and limited time on earth. Still, I think anyone who has observed his calvary over the past few years would be right in thinking that just now, he’s glad that the arc bent in his direction.
Or in words less eloquent, but more accurate: better late than never.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania threw out Cosby’s conviction on charges of sexual assault. I don’t think I need to rehash the facts and procedural history in this matter. Anyone who has been paying attention to the story knows that the comedian was criminally charged back in 2015 in Montgomery County, was initially tried in 2017 and after a mistrial was declared, was finally convicted in 2018 of three counts of aggravated indecent assault and sentenced to three to 10 years in prison.
Since 2018, he’s been known as inmate NN7687. On Wednesday, he got his name back, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that his due process rights had been violated by the prosecutors, the judge, the jury, and every other person who had a hand in his conviction.
The court held that Cosby was induced to waive his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination in a civil proceeding, with the promise that he would not be criminally prosecuted. That civil proceeding was the deposition in the case filed against him by Andrea Constand, the only woman who alleged abuse within the statute of limitations.
The court noted that since Cosby “relied upon” this promise not to prosecute, he then made “several incriminating statements.” Those statements were used against him at trial. Furthermore, the prosecutor Kevin Steele presented the testimony of witnesses who claimed they’d been abused decades before and well outside of the statute of limitations as some sort of evidence of “pattern and practice.” He did this with the authorization of the trial judge, Steven O’Neill.
This was the nail in the coffin, and assured Cosby’s convictions. You also have to remember that this trial played out in the heat of the #MeToo crusade, filled with accusations against any man who’d ever looked the wrong way at a woman. It was a legal, social, and moral disgrace.
Cosby went to jail, and the women and their supporters danced their victory dance. Feminists had made their point, gotten their pound of flesh and planted their flag on the highest of social hills.
The fact that due process had been shattered and the Constitution shredded was considered necessary collateral damage so we would all be able to celebrate the “no means no, even when I don’t say it loud enough” mantra. It was the revenge of the Handmaids. It was a feeding frenzy.
And everyone thought it was over, and justice had been served.
But Cosby refused to admit his guilt, because it hadn’t been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Justice had been manipulated, massaged, coerced, and transformed into something ugly.
Over the past six years, I’ve written many articles for this paper, and others. The headlines were controversial, the content even more so. I can’t print some of the names I’ve been called, but I can assure you they rarely exceeded four letters. I even had a former editor from a former newspaper for which I wrote publish a cloying “apology” to her readers, many of whom had been triggered by my defense of Cosby. So nice to see the Fourth Estate grovel before those who can’t deal with controversy.
Ultimately, though, it didn’t matter. Words are meaningless. What matters is the law, truth, procedural fairness, and time. As Dr. King wrote, it might move slowly, that arc. But as long as it reaches toward justice, the wait is worth it.
Even, I think, for an 83-year-old man from Philadelphia.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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