Just What Was on Trial in the Bill Cosby Case?

MORRIS Oh, feelings. They obviously had a role to play in this case and yet aren’t the usual basis for a legal strategy. So little of this trial was concrete. Mr. Cosby didn’t take the stand in his defense, which meant the case, in some sense, came down to Ms. Constand’s recollection versus his legacy.

WORTHAM As soon as the push notification announcing the outcome of the trial arrived on my iPhone, I began obsessing over what part of the trial cast enough doubt to some of those 12 people. The answer is important, because it reveals so much about our culture’s relationship to women and how they are supposed to function within systems of power. What about Ms. Constand gave the jury pause? Her sexual identity? Her decision to trust Mr. Cosby? Her inability to recall the exact details of being drugged? Her initial reluctance to take legal action against someone she considered to be a friend, with the only thing compelling her to speak out being the deep knot in her gut that something happened that night that was not right? To me, she seemed to be trying to make the best decision possible at every moment, and abiding by a simple trust: that each of us lives according to a moral code that keeps us from harming one another unnecessarily.

MORRIS Too true. I’ll also tell you that this case has done a number on my 88-year-old grandmother and her 73-year-old baby sister. They sided with Mr. Cosby, partly because we’re from Philadelphia, where it’s cheesesteaks, Ben Franklin and Bill Cosby. But the bulk of my family’s support comes from being black women who’ve seen too many black men and women harassed by the city and the courts. When I talked with them about the case, we talked about the evidence. But we also talked about a history of feelings. And how a lot of their alignment has to do with the awareness that the criminal justice system tends to disfavor black people.

The travails of regular civilians might…

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