SCOTUS Declines to Review Bill Cosby’s Overturned Conviction. Did They Have a Choice?

The United States Supreme Court recently did not decide to review a divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to reverse Bill Cosby’s sexual insufficiency conviction.

The Pennsylvania court ruled that Cosby shouldn’t have had to face the possibility of facing criminal charges over drugging and attacking Andrea Constand in 2004–because in 2005, Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor publicly promised not to bring charges against Cosby. Castor stated that he decided not to file charges to ensure that Cosby was not able to invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when a civil lawsuit was pending against Constand.

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The judge noted the fact that Cosby was relying on the promise in a negative way in his testimony at Constand’s civil lawsuit against him and admitted providing women with sedatives. In the event that a brand New Montgomery County D.A., Kevin Steele, opted to bypass his predecessor’s decisions and pursue prosecution charges for Cosby in the year 2016, his evidence played an important role in his decision to convict him. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer called the decision as a “reprehensible lure with a switch.”

SCOTUS refused to grant the request for review , without making any comments We can only speculate what was going on in the minds of each justice. However, could they had overruled the prosecutorial discretion regardless of whether they would have wanted to?

What Federal Courts Have Approached Non-Prosecution agreements

A decision from 2016 of the D.C. Circuit declared that federal judges do not have the ability to “second-guess” the deferred prosecution agreements signed by federal prosecutors. In this instance, the judge ruled that a district court’s decision to deny the validity the deferred prosecution agreement was in violation of the separation of power. However, in the year 2020, that same court refused to apply that decision in Michael Flynn’s case. Michael Flynn.

There is also a clear indication that a non-prosecution arrangement made without regard to a separate law can be invalidated, as was cases like Jeffrey Epstein. In Epstein’s instance the deal was in contradiction of the Crime Victims’ Right Act which mandates that prosecutors inform the victims of their rights prior to concluding a non-prosecute arrangement. Prosecutors embraced defense counsel’s request to shield victims from the loop, rendering the deal unenforceable.

The majority of Supreme Court case law related with this topic relates to the court that requires the prosecutors to respect their agreements to not prosecute. Both Santobello in v. New York (1971) as well as Wade v. United States (1992), SCOTUS held that, when it comes to the non-prosecution agreement in exchange in exchange for cooperation from a person, the government cannot be bound to pursue prosecution unless that the individual fulfills their obligations under the contract. According to the Penn. Supreme Court stated in its decision, Santobelloand other similar cases are a testament to the notion that courts have a duty to “hold prosecutor’s word as well as to make sure promises are kept, and to make sure that the decisions of defendants are based on a complete comprehension of the situation.”

It appears that Pennsylvania may have been aware that it was facing an uphill struggle in asking to the Supreme Court to throw out the prior “agreement.”

Is Cosby’s “Agreement” different?

In 2016 In 2016, Montgomery County trial judge rejected the arguments made by Cosby’s defense that the judge’s decision to not pursue a case in 2005 was an immunity deal. The judge said that “[asecret agreement that allows a wealthy defendant to get to avoid a criminal investigation doesn’t make sense.” It’s not easy to label an agreement “secret” in the event that there’s a news release about it.

But, the statement itself isn’t interpreted as a formal agreement. The office of Castor simply stated that they could not find reliable and admissible evidence “upon that any accusation against Mr. Cosby could be sustained beyond raisonnable doubt.” However, Cosby’s lawyers claimed there was an additional oral arrangement between Castor and the former Cosby defense lawyer (who has since passed away) in which they claimed that this could be read in the press release to be an immunity contract.

In its petition to the Supreme Court to grant certiorari and certiorari, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania argued that Cosby’s decision to rely on the release wasn’t appropriate as it could be interpreted as indicating that prosecutors might review charges in the event of new evidence. Furthermore, the petition argues that the release further stated, “District Attorney Castor cautions the parties involved in this dispute to be aware that he may reconsider his decision if the need arises.” The Commonwealth has acknowledged that Penn. Supreme Court’s due process ruling is only a requirement that reliance be harmful but in contrast to “reasonable.” However, the petition claimed it was that Penn. Supreme Court’s interpretation of due procedure took it over the line:

“The court’s extension to the Due Process Clause extends way beyond what was thought of by this Court. Since it interprets the Constitution of the US the court is set to change similar rulings that are not to pursue into effective the granting of immunity to others in states.”

As a response, the Cosby’s attorneys claimed that they believed that the Commonwealth “grossly misses” what effect the Penn. Supreme Court’s decision could impact the prosecutorial discretion of the prosecutor, declaring that “[p]rosecutors should be careful not to make indefinite promises to suspects, that are aimed at causing the suspects to surrender their Constitutional guarantees.”

In arguing in favor of the Penn. Supreme Court’s decision was an “fact-intensive decision, not conflicting with rulings” by any other court, not just those of U.S. Supreme Court, Cosby’s lawyers asked SCOTUS to denial cert.

They did. Unfortunately, we do not learn the reason.

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S8256702173NS Supreme Court declined to review the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reverse Cosby’s conviction and we’re left with a hypothesis about the reasons.