Updated: Where does honor fit into the law?
It’s about the Bill Cosby case. There is a hearing today to decide whether the civil deposition that Cosby made in a civil case can be used as evidence against him. That is the core of the prosecution’s criminal case against Cosby. The issue is that Cosby testified fully without invoking fifth amendment protection because the prosecutor at the time told Cosby and his lawyers that he wouldn’t prosecute, basically because there was not much evidence beyond the accuser’s word against the accused’s. Then DA Bruce Castor agreed not to prosecute so that Cosby would have to testify completely in his deposition. Castor said that this would at least allow the civil case to move forward, and he says he will testify to that effect today. There would have no testimony without that agreement, and there would never have been a criminal case now without that testimony.
Now the new DA, Kevin Steele, says there is no agreement. Well, he admits there was an agreement, but it doesn’t count. He says there are procedures that weren’t done back then that generally establish an immunity deal.
My concern is that there is a fundamental duty to honor an agreement. If a verbal contract can be binding, I think an agreement between the state and a suspect would also have to be binding. This wasn’t an agreement between two guys. Bruce Castor represented Montgomery County when he made that deal. The fact that there was an agreement is not in question. Montgomery County is trying to get out of it, and I think that sets a bed precedent.
The law is never perfect. I understand that there are procedures that need to be followed in order to have a functioning legal system. But when things aren’t done perfectly, we need somebody to use discretion.
We built our legal system to put the burden of proof on the prosecutors. Defendants get the benefit of the doubt. Those are our ideals, and when we disregard them, we erode the best parts of our society. I’m not happy about the prospect of Bill Cosby staying out of jail, but what happens when we start taking the easy way out because of course the guy did it? If you have ever seen the movie Reversal of Fortune, there is a scene where Alan Dershowitz explains why he is defending such a creep. Essentially it is because if they get to ram a case like this through, especially when everybody just “knows” he’s guilty, it will be easier to do it again when the defendant isn’t rich or famous.
UDDATE: The trial judge ruled that the DA’s promise not to charge Cosby is not binding. I think this is a horrible precedent. There would have been no case against Cosby now if Castor hadn’t promised not to charge Cosby then. Everybody’s happy when the defendant is so obviously guilty, but giving up your honor is never a good thing. I’m sure somebody will say it better, and I hope somebody does