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Legal Analysis On Bill Cosby's Mistrial, Not Guilty Verdict In Philando Castile Case


Now we are going to get - take a few minutes to get some legal analysis about these two very different cases. One thing they do have in common is that they both seem to show that a jury trial is very different than the court of public opinion. To hear more about that, we called Glenn Ivey. He's a former state's attorney for Prince George's County, Md. That's a suburb of Washington, D.C. In that role, he supervised prosecutions of police misconduct and sexual assault. He was here with us in our Washington, D.C., studios.

We also called Joseph Kennedy. He's a professor at the University of North Carolina law school. He teaches criminal law and criminal procedure. He's also a former public defender. He joined us via Skype. And I began by asking Glenn Ivey if he was surprised by the different decisions.

GLENN IVEY: Well, you know, Castile - I was surprised with that one. I did think that there was a good chance for a conviction, maybe not for the most serious offenses. But I thought they'd get him on something. And the reason I thought that was the case was in part because of the video, even though it's not complete.

But also I thought that, you know, the way the officer was behaving on the video that the girlfriend taped was pretty significant. And the other piece was there was a second officer at the scene at the time who did not react the same way that the shooting officer did.

MARTIN: So what - so you said you that you were surprised. But so why do you think it ended up as it did?

IVEY: I mean, I know traditionally juries give officers a great deal of deference. You know, I think their sense is that these are people making split-second decisions under high-pressure situations.

MARTIN: And what about in the Cosby case?

IVEY: Well, I think a couple of things there. You know, first of all, Ms. Constand, I think, apparently did a good job on the stand, but she had a couple of problems with her testimony. One was the continued phone calls - I think it was over 50 with Mr. Cosby. And I think they said that was because of the - you know, her role at Temple University. But I would think that might have been a factor in the jury having some, you know, boy, if you're a rape survivor, do you call that person 50 times again?

I think that the big issue was what happened at the front end of this case. The judge made a decision about how many other of these women could actually be heard by the jury. And, you know, as I understand it, there's up to, like, almost 60 women saying that this is what happened, and it followed the same M.O.

But the judge decided only one could, you know, testify. And there are reasons for that. I'm not, you know, saying the judge was wrong per se. But I think, you know, the jury only hearing from one as opposed to two or five or more was probably a factor as well.

MARTIN: Joseph Kennedy, what are your thoughts about this?

JOSEPH KENNEDY: Well, I actually wasn't that surprised by the Castile verdict. Jurors in the Castile case were instructed, you know, to judge the use of force from the perspective of the police officer. The jury instruction specifically cautions them against using 20/20 vision of hindsight. And then the jury instruction also sort of primes jurors to think even more specifically about the - from the police officer's point of view - tells them police officers have to make split-second decisions about the use of force under circumstances that are tense, uncertain, rapidly evolving. So the law sort of definitely favors the police. The jury instructions favor the police in use of force cases. These cases are hard for prosecutors to win.

MARTIN: So Glenn, let me go back to something you talked about in the - in relation to the Cosby trial. I think that many people who just follow the news casually would know that some 60 women - nearly 60 women have accused Bill Cosby of the same or similar conduct - giving them drugs without their consent and then, you know, imposing himself sexually on them. Why weren't those accusations considered, you know, relevant here?

As you mentioned, only one person was allowed to sort of testify. I think the casual observer would think that's relevant. It speaks to a pattern of behavior. So why wasn't it a part of the jury trial?

IVEY: Yeah, that's a great question. It's an eternal question in our system of justice and evidence. But, you know, to be fair to the jury, you know, I'm sure the judge instructed them, you know, you're only supposed to make the decision based on the evidence that's presented here. And so I know we don't usually think jurors follow the judge's instructions - and a lot of times they don't - but this might be one of those instances where they did.

MARTIN: Professor Kennedy, before we let you go, you know, like Mr. Ivey, you have experience in the courtroom as well as now as an academic researcher and a teacher. Is there something that you think we, in the public, should know or should learn from both of these cases that are just recently concluded at least for now?

KENNEDY: Yeah, I mean, they're both very, very different cases. But, you know, the common element in both is obviously the jury. And juries are, you know - it's the human element. And it's difficult to predict what they're going to do. And that's why so many cases do settle because - you know, any lawyer who tells a client - prosecutor or defender - who tells someone they can predict with a hundred percent confidence what a jury is going to do has not tried very many jury trials.

MARTIN: That's Joseph Kennedy. He's a professor at the University of North Carolina law school. He joined us via Skype. Glenn Ivey is a former state's attorney for Prince George's County, Md. He's now a partner at Price and Benowitz in Washington, D.C. He was kind enough to join us in our studios in Washington, D.C. Thank you both so much for speaking with us.

IVEY: Thanks for having us.

KENNEDY: You're very welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF DJ KRUSH'S "SONG 2") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.