As part of our ongoing, “It’s always all about me and I better feel good all the time or there’ll be hell to pay,” motif, it would seem that Americans can’t even come together for the greater good anymore. All that really matters these days is how some situation directly affects us or our stitled world views and nothing else.
Call me crazy, but I remember a time when our primary concern was to leave the planet a little better for our children. So, much for that fine form of altruism, right?
To be clear, I’m no longer a Bill Cosby fan. What he did to those women – and I believe them – was particularly heinous when you consider his well-crafted America’s dad persona and an absolute lack of remorse. Let’s just say I didn’t lose much sleep when he went to jail as a result of prosecutorial misconduct.
But it was misconduct and I’m not nearly surprised the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction. And despite what most columnists and women’s advocacy groups are claiming, it wasn’t a mere technicality that set Cosby free, either. It was one of the most gross and despicable miscarriages of justice I’ve ever seen.
To have let it stand, the courts would’ve set a precedent that would’ve eventually brought down the entire justice system as we know it.
And it starts with our Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination. Put as simply as possible, we don’t have to testify against ourselves, our conversations with attorneys are privileged, and husbands and wives cannot be compelled to testify against each other. When you think about it, those basic civil rights might be even more sacred than the Ten Commandments.
It’s the fundamental provision of our criminal justice system that separates us from countries like Russia, North Korea, Myanmar, and China where trials are nothing more than predetermined theatre.
When one of Cosby’s accusers sued him in civil court, as is always the case with these cases, attorneys sought to depose both plaintiff and defendant. Considering the looming possibility of criminal prosecution, arguing the self-incrimination caveat, Cosby’s lawyers secured a prosecutorial promise that any civil deposition wouldn’t be used against him in a criminal trial.
With that guarantee in hand, Cosby issued a rather damning allocution which further fueled the vast feminist anger against him for getting away with what amounts to a series of rapes. But that states attorney (or the equivalent) kept his word and, without enough evidence otherwise, Cosby wasn’t charged.
But with three days left on the statute of limitations, facing immense political pressure, the new state’s attorney willfully chose to break his predecessor’s promise and charged the former comedian with rape. And an even mildly forward-thinking individual of moderate intelligence can tell you the two serious issues with that bullshit decision.
First, if prosecutors routinely ignore their promises, the plea-bargaining process will go the way of the floppy disk and the justice system will grind to a complete halt. With distrustful defendants now demanding their day in court, most of those cases will have to be nollied because prosecutors would consistently run afoul of their state’s speedy trial statute.
And second, the prosecutors’ PA Supreme Court argument that they weren’t bound by a prior state’s attorney’s promise was beyond disingenuous and downright dangerous. Imagine what would happen if every newly elected state’s attorney had the power to review and potentially re-charge seemingly settled cases.
Not only would it be a nightmare of epic proportion, but the citizenry would rapidly lose faith in the process, and once that faith is forfeited nothing is going to restore it.
As nauseating as it is to set a serial rapist free, preserving those basic Constitutional guarantees is exponentially more important than one conviction. Trust me! Those protections become particularly important when you’re falsely accused of something. Despite their frequent proclamations to the contrary, prosecutors are not nearly as infallible as they like to think they are.
The most common argument against this ruling is whenever a powerful man appears to beat the system, it makes it that much more difficult to for other women to come forward and testify against their abusers. But not only did the “system” beat itself here, Cosby didn’t exactly “get off” Scott free, either.
He spent three years in jail, his career is non-existent, and worse yet, his meticulously honed reputation and legacy are utterly destroyed. In my mind, given the steep price he’s paid, the Cosby case should be used as an example of exactly why women should come forward.
But let’s get back to our main point!
What bothers me so much more than prevaricating prosecutors is that generally intelligent people are no longer willing to see the forest for the trees. Like the Greatest Generation, when it really mattered, we used to be able to put aside our differences and to come together to support a just cause. But even that swiftly deteriorating ideal has fallen prey to the short-sighted cacophony of the current “it’s always all about me” debate.
And that kind of self-indulgent short-sightedness doesn’t bode well for any of us.