The Atlantic Daily: Bill Cosby’s Release Is Not an Exoneration

The former comedian’s verdict was overturned on procedural grounds. What does that mean?

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Bill Cosby
Matt Slocum / AP

Bill Cosby is a free man again. The disgraced comedian, accused of sexual assault by dozens of women, today saw his court verdict overturned on a technicality.

Cosby’s case remains one of the most high-profile of the #MeToo movement. I invited my colleague Megan Garber, who covered his 2018 trial (as well as many other cases of alleged sexual misconduct), to help us make sense of this latest development—and process how it should be considered in light of the bigger cultural conversation about sexual assault and justice.

Here’s what she had to say:

After his trial in 2018, I wrote that it would be a mistake to think of Cosby’s conviction as an ending to the Cosby case. As tempting as it was to treat the legal outcome as a definitive conclusion, the decision was just one element of a story that, for the 60 women who came forward to accuse Cosby of sexual misconduct, would never really end. This was the upshot of the testimony given by Andrea Constand—the only accuser to successfully bring a criminal case against him—and of the statements many other women had made in support of her. The consequences radiate, indefinitely.

It’s tempting to think of today’s overturned conviction in symbolic terms: as a shift in the course of #MeToo, or as a rejection of the stories those women came forward to tell. But the court’s logic came down to prosecutorial conduct and the demands of due process. It had nothing to do with Cosby’s guilt or innocence—it had very little to do with Cosby at all. It does not change the story. It certainly doesn’t end it. Cosby is freed. He is not exonerated.

Search-and-rescue teams look for possible survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida.
Joe Raedle / Getty

The rest of the news in three sentences:

(1) The death toll of the Surfside condo collapse rose to 18 as rescuers continued recovery efforts.  (2) Donald Rumsfeld, the two-time secretary of defense and one of the primary faces of the Bush era, died at 88. (3) Los Angeles is now recommending that fully vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors because of fears about the Delta variant.

What to read if … you need a refresher on the Supreme Court’s (potentially) big day tomorrow:

Thursday is the last day of the 2021 term, and two big questions are outstanding. First, will the court rule on a major Voting Rights Act case, and if so, how? To help you understand where things currently stand before the decision comes in, I recommend this piece on how the landmark civil-rights legislation is under grave threat.

Second, will 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer retire? Here’s one argument in favor of him hanging up his robe for good.

One question, answered: So you’re fully vaccinated now. When’s the right time to travel?

Our deputy managing editor Rachel Gutman responds:

As long as case rates stay low this summer, it might be a good idea to take the mental-health break you need while you can, so that you’ll be better prepared to hunker down in the cold weather, if needed … One caveat: Pfizer announced earlier this month that it will likely seek an emergency-use authorization for its vaccine in children under 12 in September. If you’re particularly worried about your young children’s exposure, keep an eye on that target for your vacation planning.

Read the dos and don’ts of vaccinated travel.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Want to indulge in some conspiratorial fiction? Try renting the 1976 thriller Marathon Man.

A break from the news:

“Are you in the mood to feel small? Like cosmically small?