Last week, the decision to reverse Bill Cosby’s conviction was made by a Pennsylvania Court. It was a polarizing decision, to say the least, and there’s so much to parse through regarding it. I intend to try and help put some things in context today based off of the discussion Marc Lamont Hill had with Judge Joe Brown last week.
I should mention that I thought it was an intelligent decision on Hill's part to have a judge discuss the facts of the case. We have to understand the law is sometimes very black and white. Decisions are made based on the slightest of nuance and insight. In this case, a decision was reversed based on a violation of an agreement made in a 2006 deposition.
What is seen at play in the above video is two different schools of thought. In my opinion, Marc Lamont Hill represents “the people.” He represents everyone who is irate about the result of this case and rape culture at large. He echoes the sentiments of people who, in short, aren’t rape apologists. Judge Joe Brown, on the other hand, represents the law. He doubles down on this throughout the whole interview, and is unrelenting in his insistence that the correct decision was made in letting Bill Cosby walk free.
Now, I am no rape apologist and I certainly think that the things Bill Cosby has been accused of are repulsive; however, that didn't stop me from watching the interview objectively. In as much as I can connect and understand Marc Lamont Hill’s passion and empathy, I don’t necessarily think Judge Joe Brown was off of his rocker.
Judge Joe Brown clearly trusts the law and believes in it. He was challenged on this allegiance to the law by Hill. When asked about cases where murderous police officers of Black folks have walked free, Brown blamed our communities for not voting enough in smaller elections to get the right judges in those seats in the states in question.
Hill essentially believes, as many do, that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. He believes that there's just no way that someone could have that many accusers and not be guilty in any of the instances of taking advantage of these women. It’s evident that Hill is an advocate for women; he believes women and he doesn’t find it beneficial to spend time being skeptical of these claims given the proliferation of them.
Conversely, Brown doesn’t believe that you can paint someone as a rapist based solely from hearsay. The law is his ultimate barometer. With that line in the sand, it’s clear that these two wouldn’t ever reach a common understanding. It’s scenarios like this that make me wonder, when do we actually trust the law; when is justice truly being served?
It’s so hard for us as a people to trust. We've witnessed so many miscarriages of justice in our time that we just find it hard to believe that the law is working for us in the way that it should. It is widely known that in this country, the law assumes innocence until proven guilty. A determination of guilt is supposed to be reached by the ability to prove wrongdoing in a case. This discussion essentially pits the court of public opinion versus the court of law.
When Judge Joe Brown analyzed the details of the 2006 deposition, he made the distinction between Cosby giving the young lady in question quaaludes with her knowledge versus her receiving these drugs unknowingly. He believed that you couldn’t frame someone as a rapist if evidence showed someone else being a willing participant in the act. He gave examples of “groupies” or going out on a date and two folks mutually indulging in alcohol as a catalyst for loosening up. I believe the examples that the judge raised are real ones. I think we all have consented in acts where both parties had drinks and things progressed. Brown seems to think the Cosby case is no different from that with the evidence provided.
Marc Lamont Hill’s feeling was totally opposite. It came off as there being no room at all for consenting adults to indulge in alcohol or other substances. With upwards of sixty accusers, Hill finds it damn near impossible to believe that all of these women are opportunists or “groupies” as Brown would describe. In his impassioned delivery you could see that his call and his agenda was to amplify the voices of these women, and other victims at large, but his claims weren’t supported by the facts of the deposition. There were more inferences made than anything and I think ultimately that is also what leads to many of these cases not resulting in convictions.
As you watch that video, it’s almost easy to view Judge Joe Brown as a rape apologist. I found myself wondering if maybe he had something to hide. But then I got to thinking, as much as White men have had the biggest hand in legislation in this nation, does the law simply support rape because of how our justice system works? Is this something Joe Brown can hide behind, or is he truly a believer of our justice system?
I think there should be space for conversations like this. I personally don’t believe that Bill Cosby’s nose is all the way clean as I wrote six years ago. But my opinion is just that. I asked an attorney last week, when is the law truly working for us the way that it should? He replied that it’s only working when it’s working in a way that’s favorable in our eyes. This is not easy at all to navigate, but it’s my hope that sexual abuse is something that lessens in this country. And in the event these disheartening acts occur, enough evidence is available for the law to work favorably in your eyes.
Kahlil Haywood is a writer, author, and content creator from Brooklyn, NY. He really thinks that you should be familiar with him by now, but if you aren't, feel free to be. Follow his work on Instagram @Damnitpops and his thoughts and rants on Twitter @Damnpops.