The concept of innocent until proven guilty is shattered by the documentary “The Case Against Cosby”.
We listen to several Cosby’s victims interviewed stating they were drugged and sexually assaulted by actor and comedian Bill Cosby. One of his numerous victims is Canadian Andrea Constand, the only survivor to gain a conviction against America’s favourite dad. Constand, a star basketball player in high school and college, joined Temple University in Philadelphia as director of basketball operations. Cosby was a Temple graduate, a member of the Temple University board and a big fundraiser and supporter of the women’s basketball programme at Temple. Cosby approached her casually over a period of a few months and then asked her to his suburban home. Constand was nervous and a bit flustered and Cosby suggested she have some alcohol and three blue pills to take the edge off. She agreed and lo and behold was paralyzed. She passed out but recalled being sexually assaulted by Cosby. Cosby took great care to groom Constand by ingratiating himself with her family. Gain the trust of the family and exploitation and assault is much easier. Both Michael Jackson and Cosby took grooming to the highest level.
We are introduced to some of Cosby’s victims including Renita Chaney Hill, Dona Speir, Stacey Pinkerton and Lisa-Lotte-Lublin who lay forth the Cosby strategy of alcohol, drugs and then sexual assault. It did not bother Cosby if minors were his victims. The local police in Montgomery County launch a criminal investigation and district attorney of Pennsylvania Bruce Castor decides not to prosecute Cosby due to “insufficient evidence”. He makes a deal with Cosby that if he gives a deposition in Constand’s civil suit against Cosby there will not be any criminal charges laid. Cosby gives the deposition which is sealed. Later it is discovered in this deposition his admission he used drugs and alcohol to sexually assault women. Cosby settles the suit with Constand compelling her silence with a non-disclosure agreement. A cross she admits she had to bear for another 10 years.
In 2014 a comedian Hannibal Buress is recorded on a phone by a journalist performing where he lambasts Cosby and it goes viral and women start coming out claiming they were victims of a Cosby sexual assault. A new district attorney commences criminal proceedings against Cosby where the presiding judge releases part of Cosby’s civil suit deposition where he explained his use of drugs and alcohol to pursue women. A mistrial was declared as the jury was hopelessly deadlocked. There is a retrial in 2018 in the midst of the Me-Too movement. He is found guilty on three charges and sentenced to 3-10 years in prison on September 25, 2018. In 2021 the conviction is overturned on appeal. Why? Because of the Cosby-Castor no prosecution deal agreed to if Cosby gave a deposition in the Constand civil suit should have prevented any criminal charges being laid against Cosby. This is not a declaration of innocence, as trumpeted by Cosby’s counsel, but a matter of improper judicial procedure. Some 60 women came forward claiming assault by Cosby but their actions were barred by statutes of limitation that prevent litigation/prosecution after a certain period of time has passed.
A small group of victims, including Constand, gather at a trauma recovery retreat in British Columbia run by Dr. Gabor Maté who discusses the nature of trauma and helps the women recover the best they can. Viewers will learn the nature of trauma and how it affects the self. An interesting foray into trauma but the pain and suffering endured by these victims is massive not only for them but their families.
We hear from police officers, family members, a forensic nurse, psychologists, prosecutors and the victims themselves. You might think well why these women didn’t pursue Cosby in the legal system but by watching this documentary you’ll understand what trauma does to victims and how that is exploited by defence attorney’s who interpret the effects of trauma on victims against those victims.
40 years of Cosby on the hunt with 60 victims coming forward is horrific but even more so when we hear from an expert that only 14% of sexual assault victims “come out” to seek justice.
So innocent until proven guilty is not entirely accurate given this 14% statistic and bearing in mind that trauma causes a retreat from oneself and often an attempt by the mind to heal by distancing a victim from the event. As Dr. Maté states when a body heals it leaves scar material that stiffens and for the mind causes a disconnection from the present and gives you a shame-based view of yourself so the last thing a traumatized mind wants is to reopen the trauma by coming out and dishing out justice to the aggressor.
On a personal note as a lawyer for many years I believed steadfastly in “innocent until proven guilty” but in instances of sexual assault “The Case Against Cosby” innocent until proven guilty holds little water because of grandstanding lawyers, statue of limitations and the nature of trauma. It took this documentary to change my mind. It’s never too late to admit I was blinded by that pie in the sky.
You can see the trailer here https://vimeo.com/776705393/0bd68eb06d?embedded=false&source=vimeo_logo&owner=51219433
Director is Karen Wookey.
You can see this documentary on CBC television and CBC Gem on 8January2023.
RKS 2023 Film Rating 90/100.