Court Battles

Supreme Court turns away prosecutors’ appeal in Bill Cosby case

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a bid by a Pennsylvania prosecutor to appeal a state court ruling last summer that overturned actor Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction.

The justices’ move, which came in a brief unsigned order without noted dissent, leaves intact a June ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that led to Cosby’s release from prison. 

Pennsylvania’s top court, in a 4-3 ruling, held that the evidence used to secure Cosby’s 2018 conviction violated his due process rights after prosecutors subjected Cosby to what the court said amounted to a bait-and-switch.

That ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court in November by the district attorney for Montgomery County, Pa., whose office played a central role in Cosby’s sexual assault case.

The dispute traces back to a 2005 determination by then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor that there was insufficient evidence to convict Cosby for the assault. Castor then promised not to charge Cosby if the comedian agreed to testify in a civil suit brought by his alleged victim, Andrea Constand. 

But Castor’s successor as district attorney, Risa Vetri Ferman, declined to honor the agreement. Instead, Ferman filed charges against Cosby — and used Cosby’s own testimony against him to help secure a guilty verdict. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, by a bare majority, ruled that denying Cosby, 84, the benefit of Castor’s non-prosecution decision would be “an affront to fundamental fairness.”

Kevin Steele, the current district attorney for Montgomery County, in his ultimately unsuccessful petition for appeal, had told the Supreme Court that Castor’s determination not to prosecute Cosby should not carry the legal equivalent of creating “immunity” for defendants.

Cosby’s legal team had urged the justices to let the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling stand.

“The narrowly tailored decision of the Cosby court is not at odds with any other case and is so factually unique that it fails to present any question that is likely to arise in the future with any regularity,” Cosby’s lawyers wrote in a January filing.

Tags Bill Cosby Bill Cosby sexual assault cases Pennsylvania Supreme Court
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