On Wednesday, Pennsylvania's highest court overturned 83-year-old Bill Cosby's 2018 sexual assault conviction, which could allow him to walk free. Cosby's release came down to the high court determining that an agreement with a previous prosecutor prevented the comedian from being charged in the case, The Associated Press reported.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed last year to hear two points in Cosby's appeal to overturn the 2018 conviction. The first was that a trial judge allowed the admission of "prior bad acts" witnesses and Cosby's 2005-2006 quaalude deposition to be heard at trial. The deposition noted that Cosby had used quaaludes during consensual sexual encounters in the 1970s, ABC News reports.
Cosby was charged in late 2015 with drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand after a prosecutor with newly unsealed evidence had him arrested just days before the 12-year statute of limitations was set to expire. During the first trial, the trial judge allowed just one other accuser in addition to Constand — who accused him of three counts of aggravated indecent assault — to testify against Cosby when the jury deadlocked. The judge then allowed five other accusers with similar allegations to testify about their experiences with Cosby in the 1980s at a retrial.
According to AP, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the testimony tainted the trial, despite the fact that a lower appeals court had already determined it was suitable to show Cosby's signature pattern of drugging and assaulting women. "The presumption of innocence just didn't exist for him," Cosby's lawyer Jennifer Bonjean argued to the court in December.
Further, the state Supreme Court said Wednesday that a previous prosecutor's decision not to criminally prosecute Cosby allowed him to testify in a civil lawsuit that Constand filed against him in 2005, according to NBC News. The high court stated that the testimony helped Cosby's conviction in criminal court.
"When an unconditional charging decision is made publicly and with the intent to induce action and reliance by the defendant, and when the defendant does so to his detriment (and in some instances upon the advice of counsel), denying the defendant the benefit of that decision is an affront to fundamental fairness, particularly when it results in a criminal prosecution that was foregone for more than a decade," the high court opinion read. "For these reasons, Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged."
In 2018, Constand described to Dateline what it was like when Cosby assaulted her: "I was crying out — in my throat, in my mind — to stop. And I couldn't do anything," she said.
Prosecutors have not said whether they will appeal the decision or pursue a third trial against Cosby.