Bill Cosby: A Mistrial and Further Litigation Ahead

It's been a busy time in the criminal justice system this month with several high profile cases wrapping up, including Bill Cosby's mistrial. This court case is intriguing, not just because of Mr. Cosby's fame and the indelible mark he left on television with shows like Fat Albert, The Cosby Show and A Different World. The interesting thing is that the jury was unable to come to a consensus on guilt or innocence, and as a result, Mr. Cosby is free to go. For now. The prosecution has already stated their intention is to retry the case which will likely return to the headlines within a few months. We will relive the stories of sexual misconduct, drug use, and philandering. In the meantime, the defense and prosecution will do everything that they can to strengthen their positions for round two. But, should the case be retried?

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Public opinion on this case is split. Some are appalled that a 79-year-old man is being tried at all. Others argue for legal action but question this particular case, one that was deemed too weak to proceed with criminal prosecution when it was first reviewed in 2004-05. Other women have come forward with claims of sexual misconduct. However, the statute of limitation has run out on most, if not all of them. Time is such a crucial element, and yet most victims never report this type of crime. A phenomenon that happens not only in the United States. In 2015, the Global News reported national results on the issue of sexual assault and criminal proceedings in Canada. A meager twenty-three percent of sexual assault charges in 2011-12 adult criminal court resulted in a guilty verdict. However many never make it that far. Women reported being victims of 472,000 sexual assaults in 2009, according to Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey; men, 204,000. Yet police-reported crime statistics for that year show barely 21,000 incidents of sexual assault and 7,951 persons charged. So I wonder how victims of rape and sexual assault view the outcome of the Cosby trial. Does it reinforce the message that it is better to suffer in silence or have we encouraged others to come forward? 

Final Thoughts

The Cosby trial is far from the typical sexual assault case. Questions of victim credibility based on possible fame and financial gain and the accused abuse of power have taken center stage in the conversation. What I think this case does is bring to light how different sexual assault is viewed by gender (Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes, and Donald Trump come to mind) and how the element of time can alter the perception of a person or incident. At the very least this case should open up a dialogue about sexual misconduct around dinner tables and in classrooms. Also, a re-examination of the current statute of limitations to which many states adhere.

I'm not sure what, if anything, will be different when the facts of the case are laid out a second time so that a jury will be able to agree on a verdict. Guilty or not. I imagine each side would much prefer to declare a decisive win as opposed to another draw. 

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