The presidents of the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee will introduce a bill that requires the state to draft and enforce non-prosecution agreements made in criminal investigations.
The proposal comes after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Bill Cosby’s 2018 aggravated indecent assault convictions that were obtained, in part, using comic book testimony from a 2006 civil lawsuit in which he believed himself safe from further criminal accusations.
“Requiring non-prosecution agreements to be in writing will protect the due process rights of the accused, while helping to ensure that victims have access to justice,” Minority Chair Senator Steve Santarsiero said, D-Lower Makefield.
In a June 30 opinion, Judge David Wecht agreed with lower courts that former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor never entered into a formal, written no-prosecution agreement with the legal team. of Cosby when he refused to press charges against the comedian for allegedly drugging and assaulting. Andrea Constand during a visit to the Comics House in Cheltenham in January 2004.
Castor, instead, issued a press release stating his intention never to indict Cosby. In court documents, Castor said the state lacked sufficient evidence to secure a criminal conviction and he released the statement as evidence, to be used in an upcoming civil action, that Cosby could not invoke the Fifth Amendment because he would never be prosecuted for The incident.
Castor said this strategy would provide Constand with “some measure of justice.” Cosby gave four depositions in the civil lawsuit in which he made “several incriminating statements” that resulted in a settlement of $ 3.38 million paid to Constand in 2006 to resolve the case.
A decade later, Castor’s successor Kevin Steele continued criminal charges against Cosby anyway. In court documents, prosecutors argued that Castor never formalized the deal and that Cosby simply waived his Fifth Amendment rights during depositions.
Supreme Court Justice David Wecht said the assumption and the resulting criminal charges amounted to “unconstitutional coercive bait”.
“The impact of the breach of due process here is vast,” he said. “The remedy must match that impact.”
Santarsiero and Senate Judiciary Lisa Baker, R-Dallas, said the General Assembly must resolve the ambiguity of the law to avoid further “horrific miscarriages of justice.”
“The oral agreement may be legal at the moment, but it is untenable given what we have learned about the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment in our society,” Baker said. “The system leans too heavily towards perpetrators, discouraging denunciations and denying a real chance for justice to those who have the courage to bring charges. “
Cosby was released from prison on Wednesday after serving three years for the Constand assault. Steele said in a press release that he hopes the “procedural problem” does not discourage other victims from coming forward.
“Prosecutors in my office will continue to follow evidence where and to whom it leads. We always believe that no one is above the law, including those who are rich, famous and powerful, ”he said.
Wecht, in his written opinion, said that although the annulment decision is “both harsh and rare … it is justified here, if not imposed”.
“It cannot be denied that society is very interested in the prosecution of crimes,” he said. “It is also true that no such interest, however important, can ever overshadow the interest of society in ensuring that the constitutional rights of the people are upheld. not replace the remedy due to persons injured by the Constitution. “
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Keywords: News, Pennsylvania, State
Original author: Christen Smith, The Central Square
Original location: Pennsylvania senators propose new non-prosecution rules after Cosby’s conviction overturned