The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Bill Cosby's sex assault conviction on Wednesday according to a report by The Associated Press. This could allow the comedian and actor to be released from prison. Cosby has served over 2 years of a three to a 10-year prison sentence.
In 2015, Cosby was convicted of drugging and molesting an employee of his alma mater, Temple University at his suburban Pennsylvania estate, though he continued denying any wrongdoing. The Supreme Court has now reportedly found that Cosby had an agreement with a previous prosecutor that should have prevented him from being charged in the case. It also found that some of the testimony in the trial was irrelevant, and may have "tainted" the legal proceedings.
Cosby was arrested just days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired on the case for which he was ultimately convicted. At the time, prosecutors relied on newly unsealed evidence to make their case. It was Cosby's deposition from a lawsuit about Cosby's alleged sexual assaults of the past.
One of Cosby's appellate lawyers argues that this was vague evidence relating to uncharged conduct, and was therefore not relevant to the case. The unsealed evidence was a record of Cosby's recollection of his own deposition about allegedly giving women drugs and alcohol before sexual encounters, legally blurring the issue of consent.
Justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also voiced concern about the testimony from six other accusers at Cosby's trial, whose allegations fell outside of the statute of limitations. The trial judge allowed this testimony in court, but the Supreme Court now feels that it "tainted" the trial. They also related this to a broader trend of judges allowing testimony in court that strays too far from the case at hand and consists more of "character attacks."
This contradicts a previous decision from a lower appeals court, which said that it was appropriate to allow this testimony in Cosby's case because it demonstrated a criminal pattern so specific that it serves to identify the perpetrator. Cosby has been hit with similar accusations many times but has always pleaded guilty in the instances where the case is within the statute of limitations. He has also settled several cases out of court.
Publicly, Cosby has insisted on his innocence and has even gone so far as to refuse participation in a sex offenders' rehabilitation program within the prison. He was reportedly willing to serve the maximum sentence rather than concede to any wrongdoing whatsoever. It is unclear if this new Supreme Court decision will really get him out any sooner.