Written By: Anton Sawyer
If there is ever a petition going around where we can choose the ultimate definition of "human puke," I believe Bill Cosby would be on the shortlist. But then that would make the State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania "Human Puke Advocates" wouldn't it? The Bill Cosby atrocity, along with the denial of Britney Spears regaining her life, have taken over the media landscape during the summer of 2021. These cases have not only been fairly cut-and-dried, but the overall facts are easy to digest by the masses. These judicial calamities have raised emotions in millions—all for good reason. Cosby raped women, Britney testified and explained all of the horrible things happening to her in regards to her freedom and liberty. Cosby was let out of prison because of a deal gone south, Britney was denied outright because she was declared "substantially unable to manage his or her financial resources or to resist fraud or undue influence." Please understand that I don’t want to minimize the importance of context in each ruling and I will treat each with the respect they both deserve. But wow, the ball was not only dropped but it was also kicked into the bleachers on these rulings.
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Starting with Cosby, we get a glimpse into the world of how just a few individuals are able to cause upheaval; not only now but for generations to come. In 2005 one of Cosby’s 60 victims named Andrea Constand came forward to the police about the assault, but former state prosecutor Bruce Castor did not press criminal charges. In fact, he made a deal with Cosby that if Cosby made statements that could be self-incriminating during the deposition for the civil case that was shortly upcoming at that time, they could not be used in future proceedings. Some of this comes from the fact that in civil hearings, the Fifth Amendment isn’t regarded in the same way it is for criminal cases. While in a criminal procedure, the court must instruct the jury that it cannot draw an inference of guilt from a defendant’s failure to testify about facts relevant to his case, (Griffin v. California (1965) 80 U.S. 609). In civil cases, “the Fifth Amendment does not forbid adverse inferences against parties to civil actions when they refuse to testify in response to probative evidence offered against them.” (Baxter v. Palmigiano (1976) 425 U.S. 308, 318.). Cosby opened up. By this time, Castor had left and would eventually become the defense attorney for ex-President Trump’s second impeachment—he clearly had a thing for defending sexual predators. When it came time for Cosby’s second criminal case (the first ending in a mistrial), this testimony was used against him and he was found guilty in April 2018. Cosby’s attorneys began the appeals process due to the agreement he had made with Castor. One of the main arguments for the use of Cosby’s “sealed” testimony was in the fact that it was the SECOND trial, and the agreement was only for the first trial. This is what my dad would call “getting cute” with the system. It made its way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court where they agreed that the deal that was made was in line with the state’s Constitution and let him go free. I want to make it clear that as someone who lives in this country and thereby has agreed to play by the rules, this is within legal scope. As much as I may personally disagree with the decision, when a legally binding contract is made, adherence must occur. The issue with the entire situation really hinges on the way the system was manipulated in this situation for … reasons. From Castor making the initial deal, to the way the state’s DA office renegotiated and tried to use a loose interpretation to see it through, was done with a level of ineptitude that is breathtaking. But I do think that this case should be examined by every law student in the country who wishes to practice. It shows what happens when you try to replace justice with gamesmanship. Ego has always been a cornerstone to the legal profession, but it almost seems that trying to navigate the system like Magellan was more important than seeing any kind of justice for the victims.
How this impacts the future is pretty simple: legal precedent. This ruling is now going to be used by any and every person in prison with similar circumstances to potentially face anything from a re-trial to release. This thought is chilling.
Though the ruling against Britney Spears is filled with different minutia, it too exposes a flaw in the system when it comes to semantics. Before we go too much further though, I need to make it clear I have not followed the #FreeBritney movement. I don’t know about any of the messages, conspiracies, etc. I deal in facts and testimonies.
In this situation, Spears was denied the right of getting her life back after a 13-year conservatorship in which her father has had control of nearly every facet of her life. When the original hearings of the conservatorship began in 2008, Spears was in a very bad mental state. It had become apparent to both her family and fans, she needed help. When the judge ruled to give her father that control, it was understood by everyone that it was probably in her best interest. Since then, the dynamic has drastically changed. She has toured both the nation and the world at large. Her personal mental health has evolved to the point where she's maintained a healthy relationship with her boyfriend of five years. She has done a Las Vegas residency. She has guest-starred in, hosted, or co-hosted many top-rated TV programs as well.
It’s when you look at the verbiage of the ruling that you see the devil known as semantics come into play. She was declared "substantially unable to manage his or her financial resources or to resist fraud or undue influence." A lot is lurking in this sentence. Because of HIPAA and confidentiality laws, the general public is never going to know what has been said between Spears and the counselor that evaluated her. The counselor maybe looked at her spending habits and thought them to be extravagant when compared to the average person—this could be seen as being under the influence of marketing or the like. Verbiage and “legalese” can utterly dissect the words of a person to distort their intentions massively. Of course, we will never know. With that being said, there is a personal experience I can draw from.
Having toured North America when working as a PR agent in the music business, I know what is involved in this cross-country affair. The "hurry up and wait" mentality. Leaving a venue at 2 AM so you can drive 12 hours to do a quick soundcheck in a different city and time zone. Doing press, soundcheck, meet-and-greet, show, etc. You hit the stage, work as hard as you can, leave the venue, and do it all over again. Being on tour is one of the most mentally and physically grueling tasks to undertake. Given the level of fame Ms. Spears has compared to the acts I have worked with, I can only imagine her schedule. Knowing what I do from my experiences, I can promise you that if she were in as much mental duress as they claim she is, she wouldn't be able to tour, or "lead a group of 12 dancers," as she claimed.
One final thought I wanted to toss into the mix that didn't occur to me until recently; the treatment of women in all of this. As you already know, I don't particularly like using racism or sexism to make my points. I've always tried to look at the core flaw in various laws themselves because if you root out those specific portions, then the cancerous side effects of racism and misogyny will fall like dominoes. But there is something to look at as far as the women in both cases. 60 women and their experiences invalidated by the legal system, Spears being forced into sterilization. Unfortunately, this will have to be another argument for another time.
As we’ve seen, the American judicial system is nothing like what we’ve been presented with since birth. We were taught that lady justice is blind. That the laws and their repercussions are distributed evenly no matter where you are born, no matter your station in life. This is not a reality for 99% of us. The lower and middle-class citizens who are arrested will more than likely never have access to the resources to exploit certain sub-sections of certain laws to be able to get away with truly heinous crimes. Time and time in America, that’s only reserved for the “big boys.” I am truly hoping that over the next few years we will see a candidate (from either side), put their neck on the line and be willing to try and pass legislation that will either put term limits or other limits on those who preside over the American judicial system. We need to figure out a way to realistically have the same laws for all; for every Britney, Bill, and Donald ... oh yeah, and those who pay their salaries too.
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