Why Was Bill Cosby Released From Prison?

We Need to Talk About Cosby is the highly-anticipated Showtime two-part documentary about the rise and fall of Bill Cosby. Once known as "America's dad," Cosby was an actor, comedian and familiar patriarch the world over thanks to The Cosby Show.

In 2014, Cosby faced accusations of rape, drug-facilitated sexual assault, sexual battery, child sexual abuse, and sexual misconduct spanning the years 1965 to 2008 by over 60 women. He has denied all allegations against him.

In 2018, Cosby was found guilty by a jury of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand in 2004 when she was a Temple University employee. He was sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison and received, a $25,000 fine plus court costs of both trials. However, Cosby was released from prison almost three years later.

Newsweek has everything you need to know about his release from prison.

Why Was Bill Cosby Released From Prison?

Bill Cosby was released from prison on June 30, 2021, when his conviction was overturned.

After serving nearly three years for aggravated indecent assault, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction, citing violations of his due process rights.

Due process is a legal requirement that the governments must respect all legal rights owed to a person in a court of law.

Since December 2019, Cosby's legal team had been appealing the verdict. At first, the verdict was upheld by the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

However, the major turning point came when the court also agreed to review whether Cosby's constitutional rights had been violated during the 2018 trial when evidence was used from the 2005 civil lawsuit brought by Constand in his criminal trial.

In February 2005, Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor stated in a press release stating that a conviction was "unattainable" and he declined to criminally charge Cosby based on the allegations made by Constand.

Cosby was also told by Castor he would not ever be criminally prosecuted in the Constand matter and as result, Cosby agreed to testify in the civil lawsuit, where he admitted giving Constand Benadryl (an antihistamine) and other women Quaaludes.

The lawsuit was settled, with Cosby paying $3.38 million in damages. The evidence from the civil case would go on to form a huge part of the prosecution's evidence in his criminal trial.

However, a subsequent DA reversed Castor's decision and criminally charged Cosby with assaulting Constand. He stood trial in 2018 and prosecutors used the evidence from the deposition in the Constand civil case as part of their evidence against him.

Cosby's legal team argued Cosby had agreed to testify in his civil case under the promise he would never face prosecution in a criminal case based on the promises made by Castor. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ultimately agreed and ruled his due process rights were violated.

He was released on June 30, 2021, the same day his conviction was overturned.

In the ruling to overturn Cosby's conviction, Justice David Norman Wecht wrote: "We hold that, when a prosecutor makes an unconditional promise of non-prosecution, and when the defendant relies upon that guarantee to the detriment of his constitutional right not to testify, the principle of fundamental fairness that undergirds due process of law in our criminal justice system demands that the promise be enforced."

The ruling continued: "He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred.

"We do not dispute that this remedy is both severe and rare. But it is warranted here, indeed compelled."

Bill Cosby Conviction
Prosecutors asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision that overturned Bill Cosby’s conviction. In a petition filed Monday, Nov. 29, 2021 they wrote that courts should not equate a supposed promise made by a former prosecutor to lifetime immunity. Cosby arrives for his sentencing hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Norristown, Pa. Matt Slocum/AP Photo

In a statement on Twitter following his release, Cosby said: "Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal. I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence. Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law."

In a statement issued through her lawyers, Constand said the court's ruling was "not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant or may force a victim to choose between filing either a criminal or civil action."

In response to the ruling, prosecutor Kevin Steele said that Cosby "was found guilty by a jury and now goes free on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime."

"My hope is that this decision will not dampen the reporting of sexual assaults by victims... We still believe that no one is above the law - including those who are rich, famous, and powerful."

In November 2021, the District Attorney filed papers with the Supreme Court of the United States seeking to have Pennsylvania's Supreme Court decision overturned. At the time of writing, the DA's petition had not been ruled upon.

We Need To Talk About Bill Cosby premieres Sunday, January 30 at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.

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