The shockwaves are still rippling from the Cosby ruling, but the issues at hand are not new to those of us who have followed the case closely. Though the arguments are complex, the decision is ultimately a clear case of the court getting it wrong. And the court’s findings have the potential to wreak havoc far beyond Cosby’s case.
Last year the court agreed to hear Cosby’s appeal to overturn his conviction based on two points. One was that witness testimony on the defendants’ “prior bad acts” should not have been allowed. Although the court ultimately did not address this point, this argument from Cosby’s attorneys is also flawed.
This decision — although limited to the unique circumstances of Cosby’s case — could have a chilling effect on the prosecution of sexual assault cases. It may compound victims’ valid fears around confronting the rich and powerful. Prosecutors may be reluctant to pursue charges, and might second guess introducing prior bad act witnesses even when they provide critical context.
The moment and movement that finally began to take hold with the Cosby conviction was long overdue. Now, as women again find their voices stifled, the tide may well turn against us.