TIME: What Bill Cosby’s release really says about getting a conviction overturned in America
UC Law professor understands the pain felt by the decision but agrees it is a victory for fairness
In the first week of July, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated Bill Cosby’s 2018 conviction for sexual assault, freeing him immediately from his three to 10 year prison sentence. At the time, Cosby was quick to offer himself as a prime example of the problem of wrongful convictions in the United States.
In a story on his release in TIME magazine, Cosby was quoted as telling a Philadelphia radio station, “This is for all the people who have been imprisoned wrongfully regardless of race, color or creed.”
In the TIME story, several legal experts from around the country were quoted, including Mark Godsey, founder and co-director of the Ohio Innocence Project at Cincinnati Law.
Godsey told TIME that he is sympathetic to the pain unleashed when Cosby was released from prison. Cosby’s conviction had been regarded as a watershed moment, the beginning of long overdue justice for women whose stories had been ignored for decades, Godsey says. On the other hand, he’s inclined to agree with attorney Jennifer Bonjean that Cosby’s release is a victory for fairness, for a system in which prosecutors must follow the rules and obtain convictions justly. And ensuring such a system is especially important for the sake of the people whom Cosby made a second career out of scolding, and who—despite Cosby’s attempts to connect his case to their experiences—experts say occupy a different world when it comes to criminal justice.
“We have got to keep the #MeToo movement going [and] hold people like Cosby accountable, but if we’re going to do that we have to make the system more fair,” says Godsey. “Criminal justice reform is an upward battle. [But] when it is unfair it screws over people of color, people who are poor, people who are the most vulnerable.”
Lead photo of attorney Jennifer Bonjean and Bill Cosby/Michael Abbott/Getty Images
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