Is Bill Cosby Headed to Prison?

Is Bill Cosby Headed to Prison?

PHOTO: Bill Cosby is seen leaving the Montgomery County Court House after a hearing on his upcoming sexual assault trial, Photo Date: 4/3/2017

Is Bill Cosby going to prison?
As actor Bill Cosby trial for sexual assault continues, everyone is asking the million dollar question is this it? Is the legendary actor that we all grew up with (Mr. Huxtable, Fat Albert, Jell-o pudding pops man) going to serve prison time for the alleged sexual assault of Andrea Constand?
Several factors come into play. 

First, he’s got to be found guilty. The prosecution has an uphill battle convincing the 12 person jury. There was a delayed report of the assault (one year later), no physical evidence, and no eyewitnesses. The alleged victim stayed in contact with Cosby afterwards. Jurors, in the age of DNA, need more than an accuser’s word more often than not. He also has a squeaky clean image, and was someone who seemed endearing on television. It may be hard to separate the character from the person. 

But, the prosecution is not walking in empty handed. There was much pretrial press, including television specials and magazine articles, of the long line of women (over 50 in total) who claim to have been victimized by Cosby. This includes supermodels, struggling actresses, and an airline stewardess among others. As much as the judge and attorneys for both sides asked probing questions during the jury selection process, this publicity will be in the jurors minds no matter what they may have said. Also, another victim will be sharing her experience with the jury — hearing from multiple victims is more powerful. Lastly, the prosecution will present expert testimony with the goal of enlightening the jury as to the different, unexpected ways victims of sexual assault may act or react. 

So, it is a toss up which way the case will go. If he is found not guilty, he walks out the door. If he is found guilty, he would not be sent to jail immediately. Sentencing would be set for several weeks after the verdict is read. At the sentencing hearing, the defense attorney would bring a host of character witnesses. We saw Keisha Pullman Knight come to court with him in support; she and other Cosby show co-stars have been vocal in their support. They will probably be called to testify, along with others who will discuss the positive things he has done for the community, for the field of acting, etc. The defense will be quick to remind the court that Cosby does not have a criminal history. 

Along with his lack of criminal history, the judge can consider Cosby’s age (79) and health. If he is truly going blind due to glaucoma, along with other physical ailments, the judge may determine that incarceration may not be the best punishment. The judge may feel that because of his age/physical condition, he is unlikely to reoffend, therefore not posing a risk to the public. 

Cosby faces a max of ten years in prison if convicted. But as we have seen in recent cases at Stanford University and in Colorado, judges may conclude that prison is not appropriate for a variety of reasons. Granted, historically, men of color have not had the best luck when it comes to sentencing, as seen by the disproportionate numbers in prison. But wealth is often the great equalizer, as seen in the OJ Simpson case. 

So is he going to jail? 
In my opinion, doubtful

Police Shooting Videos in the Courtroom

Police Shooting Videos in the Courtroom

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It’s beginning to seem like another day, another police shooting video.  We’ve all seen the videos — Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, now Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  The videos go viral, folks become outraged, protests are sparked….but that outrage does not always translate in the court of law. 

Why is it, that if these cases get to trial, that the videos do not trigger a quick guilty verdict? Often the outcome is the exact opposite of that.

The simple answer is desensitization. The video is shocking the first couple times you see it, but after a while, the impact lessens.  The same way we see kids become desensitized to violence after repeatedly playing violent video games or watching scary movies, is the same way jurors become desensitized after the repeated playing of a troubling video.

There’s no real solution — but it is food for thought.  

Ben Hancock at Law.com wrote an interesting piece on this phenomenon.

SAN FRANCISCO – Viral videos of police shooting victims Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in their final moments have left much of the American public seething, saddened and convinced that deep-rooted racial bias led the officers to fire their weapons.

But as compelling as the videos are—and as important as they have become in the broader debate about law enforcement and race—they rarely have the same decisive impact in court that they have on the way the public perceives an event.

Lawyers who have been involved in police shooting cases and dealt with videos as evidence say that often a case rises or falls on what the camera didn’t capture. Attorneys representing accused officers point to a camera’s technical limitations, or the fact that it didn’t see the angle the officer saw, which can wither a criminal or civil rights case targeting the officer.

Sometimes, the more a video is played in court, the less impact it has, and desensitizing a jury to a video’s violence often emerges as a deliberate defense strategy—as does drawing the jury’s attention to uncertainty around what happened immediately before the camera was turned on.

See the rest here.

Knowledge Trumps Racism, Part II

Knowledge Trumps Racism, Part II

IFWT_Bill_De_Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio came under fire for regarding comments he made regarding what he has told his son about how to interact with law enforcement.

Mayor De Blasio, who is married to an African American woman and has a biracial son, stated in a recent interview:

“It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality in this country,” de Blasio went on. “And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don’t move suddenly, don’t reach for your cell phone, because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.”

The head of the New York City Police Union was infuriated, and stated that the Mayor “threw cops under the bus” and was not helping race relations.

Here’s the deal.

Mayor De Blasio a white man, and a parent, is speaking his truth.

He’s speaking of the discussion that thousands of African American parents have with their sons across the country on a daily basis.

He’s a responsible parent, making sure his child knows how to act appropriately in a police encounter. Be polite, don’t make any sudden movements, don’t do anything to escalate the situation.

He’s also being practical! As angry as Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch may be, does he really want people making sudden movements in police encounters, creating situations where officers will have to draw their weapons?

I should hope not!

Mayor De Blasio’s statement is actually helping race relations…because when African Americans make similar statements, it can be viewed as an overreaction. “Their kids must be doing something bad.” “They’re just paranoid”

But the Mayor says it…this draws attention to the fact that this is a real issue.

So before dismissing his comments, listen.

Knowledge trumps racism.

Understand what the other side is saying. Mayor De Blasio is speaking his truth. So speak yours and let’s have a productive dialogue on how to move policing forward as opposed to “us” vs “them”.

Not all kids of color are bad; not all police officers are bad.  If we start from that premise, we may actually get somewhere!

See my list of my practical tips on interacting with law enforcement here.

Feel free to weigh in!

M.

Knowledge Trumps Racism (a multi-part series)

Knowledge Trumps Racism (a multi-part series)

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I’ve stayed pretty quiet in recent weeks, absorbing all that has been going on. One thing is incredibly clear; education is needed on both sides. If we don’t know the rules that govern us, as well as our past, we are doomed for the future.  If we don’t understand each other, we are doomed period.

So here is Part 1 of my series entitled “Knowledge Trumps Racism” — because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, knowledge is power.

I start from a historical perspective —  David Ovalle from the Miami Herald wrote a very thoughtful piece on the last time a police officer was indicted in Miami for a shooting death in the line of duty.  It was 25 years ago last Sunday, and left a long legacy.

In a city long torn by racial tension, a uniformed police officer fatally shot a black man. Days of upheaval and rioting riveted the nation.

A series of investigations scrutinized the officer’s use of deadly force. He claimed self-defense. Would the cop face criminal charges?

The case that exploded in Miami in 1989 still resonates today, echoing the murky, racially charged confrontation that has put a 24/7 media spotlight on the small Missouri town of Ferguson.

Twenty five years ago Sunday, after a trial that lives on in local legal lore, jurors convicted Miami Police Officer William Lozano for shooting and killing a motorcyclist. It was the last time any police officer in Florida was convicted for an on-duty shooting.

Read more here.
#JusticeForRenisha: Theodore Wafer Found GUILTY Of Second Degree Murder

#JusticeForRenisha: Theodore Wafer Found GUILTY Of Second Degree Murder

The evidence speaks…and justice was served! The best moment as a prosecutor is to give a family closure. I am glad this ended in a guilty verdict.

HelloBeautiful

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After 10-days of trial and hours of deliberation (that began on Wednesday), a jury found Theodore Wafer, 55, guilty of second degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearms charges in the shooting of Renisha McBride, 19.

A reporter (@Idabeewells) inside the courtroom tweeted, “People have moved for immediate remand. Monica McBride, mother of #RenishaMcBride, in tears.” Wafer will be remanded immediately and sentencing has been set for August 21.

Wafer admitted to shooting and killing Renisha last November after she had been banging on his door in the wee hours of the morning. Renisha had been in a car accident and sought help. Wafer’s attorney Cheryl Carpenter argued that Renisha was banging so hard, the windows shook thus, scaring her client. Wafer’s main defense was that he was in fear for his safety and sought his firearm for protection. It later came out in the trial that Wafer…

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Wrongly Convicted Man Released After 34 Years in Prison

Wrongly Convicted Man Released After 34 Years in Prison

Very powerful story!

The sister of the original eyewitness testified that her sister lied on the stand at his trial in 1979. Wrongly Convicted Man Released After 34 Years in Prison.

Chris Brown Update

Chris Brown Update

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Apparently his trial has been delayed pending the appeal of the conviction of his bodyguard (and star witness). In the meantime, Brown remains in custody, facing charges in two jurisdictions. As a general practice, if you are on probation, and get arrested, you sit in jail until the cases are resolved.

Just a reminder that American justice does not play!

Chris Brown — Examiner

Kids Suing Parents: Bringing Back Old Fashioned Discipline

Kids Suing Parents: Bringing Back Old Fashioned Discipline

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The legal world (as well as social media) has been ablaze as a result of 18 year old Rachel Canning’s attempt to sue her parents for living expenses. Shortly after Rachel’s lawsuit became public, there have been some reports that 80’s television star “Mr. T” was sued by a man claiming to be his son, under the grounds that Mr. T’s abandonment of him as a boy caused him to become a gang member.

 Rachel Canning claims that her parents were abusive, and their behavior forced her to move out of her parent’s home to a friend’s house. The parents, on the other hand, allege that Rachel refused to follow household rules. She stayed out late, came home intoxicated, and was disrespectful to her parents.

The judge in this case denied the teen’s motion for immediate support, but further motions, including money for college tuition, are pending. This story has been trending worldwide.  In Mr. T’s case, his alleged son, now in his 20’s, filed a lawsuit for $5.4 million dollars.  It was dismissed in 2013 because the filing fee was not paid in a timely manner.

The question is, what does this say about America, and how we discipline our kids?

A phenomenon that appears to be increasing is the fear of arrest as a result of disciplining your child.  The threat is of “Mom, Dad, if you touch me, I will call DCF/child protective services/the police”. As a result, many parents back down, and children are taught that they can misbehave without consequences. Additionally, they have learned to manipulate the system, with the clear message that threats can produce the desired consequences.

There is a very clear line between child abuse and discipline. Child abuse involves beating, burning or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. If a mother burns her child’s hand with an iron, that is abuse. If a father hits his son with a baseball bat, that is abuse. But spanking your child is NOT abuse.

 The criminal justice system has had to adapt to cultural differences that child rearing presents. While many American families utilize techniques such as having the child sit in a corner, or be in “time out”, many families from other countries are more physical in their methods of discipline. Having been raised in a Caribbean household, I was acutely aware of my boundaries as well as the uncomfortable consequences for misbehavior.

This is not to say that one is necessarily better than the other. Many sociologists have studied the area, coming to varied conclusions. The key is, every child is different. Some children respond to privileges being revoked; others may need more forceful reinforcement. But a parent should never be in fear of their children, or fearful to discipline them.

Fortunately, the judge saw through Rachel’s attempt to avoid the consequences of her actions. Her parents clearly told the court that if she returned to the family home, her tuition and all of her expenses would be paid. Today, the attorney for the Cannings announced that Rachel moved back into the family home; however, the lawsuit is still pending.

From a legal perspective, hopefully this will not set a nasty trend for kids to use the legal system to get around the authority of their parents, or punish their parents for whatever shortcomings they may have.

On a social perspective, this is a tragic situation for the Canning family. Having your personal affairs paraded through the media is certainly difficult, and it is clear this family is broken. Hopefully this family seeks counseling, because at the end of the day, they are tied by blood.

 And always will be.

The author Melba Pearson is an attorney in South Florida. Follow her on Twitter @ResLegalDiva

Real Talk About The Verdict…

Real Talk About The Verdict…

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Here is my point of view on the Michael Dunn verdict, and the surrounding controversy. It was published on Essence.com yesterday.  Please feel free to weigh in!

Jordan Davis: A Prosecutor’s Point of View

Is Getting Your Own Confession A Good Idea?

Is Getting Your Own Confession A Good Idea?

jamie x

Originally published on theLaw.tv on January 24, 2014  Getting Your Own Confession

A Los Angeles woman has grabbed headlines this week with her viral YouTube video confrontation. In this video, “Jamie X,” as she is calling herself, confronted her high school teacher, who allegedly molested her many years ago. Jamie says the abuse started when she was 12, going on for several years; she is now 28. One of the reasons that Jamie made the call at this point is because she discovered her alleged abuser is now an assistant principal. The YouTube clip shows Jamie calling the teacher on the phone, and asking why the teacher manipulated her and took advantage of her position. The female teacher responded by admitting to her actions, as well as saying that she “regrets” what she did.

The video is very emotionally charged, as well as tragic. But is the video going to be admissible in court? Should Jamie X have done this controversial act?

In most states, you are not allowed to video or tape record another person without their permission. There is an exception is for law enforcement personnel, who can do so with a warrant from a judge. Of course, getting a warrant is not that easy. The police officers have to set forth their case to the judge, showing probable cause, what crimes they hope to solve, and how the target of the surveillance is connected to those crimes. The reason behind this is to prevent an invasion of your privacy. In California, the law is very clear – you cannot tape a private conversation unless both parties to the conversation give permission.

In spite of the law, was it even a good idea? In all likelihood, the video will not come in as evidence at trial. But the video was helpful for several reasons. As a result, Jamie  had evidence to present to the police to jump start an investigation. There is a very liberal statute of limitations on child abuse cases, since by the very nature of the crime, reporting is often delayed. Children are abused while they are young, and as they reach adulthood, they then realize that what happened to them was wrong. Sometimes molestation victims suppress the memories, which come back to them many years later. Manipulation is a big part of a child molester’s plan. At the point of adulthood, they have the strength to tell; they are better able to break the hold of the guilt and mind games of the abuser that held them hostage. However, with the delay comes a loss of evidence. This video gave police a starting point. Hopefully, if the teacher confesses once, she will confess again.

The other good part about the video is another victim has come forward as a result. While the teacher said on the video that Jamie X was the only victim, another young woman came out today, stating that she had an identical experience with this teacher. The revelation strengthens the case, and can possibly result in multiple charges of child abuse with multiple victims in the same case.

Is it the best idea to get your own confession? No. It is better to speak with local law enforcement and let them do a thorough investigation. You don’t want to taint any potential evidence from your actions, not to mention the possibility putting yourself at risk.

No matter what happens, hopefully Jamie is able to get the closure she so desperately needs.