Mimesis Law
29 September 2020

California Ends Statute of Limitations On Rape Because Bill Cosby

September 6, 2016 (Fault Lines) – The criminal justice system pisses a lot of people off. It’s built on the United States Constitution, a document that gives rights to the worst of society. Child molesters and drug dealers and murderers are all protected by the Bill of Rights. Crazy, right?

Most people bitch about the criminal justice system because they just don’t understand it. Why should some criminal get treated better than a hard-working American citizen? Read the comment section of any news article to see how disdainful people are towards the accused. Why waste millions on a trial? Just hang the bastard in the town square and we can kill two birds with one stone. Take him out of circulation and send a message to his little criminal buddies to stay away.

Safety first. The blind obsession with complete and utter safety has quickly been picked up on by lawmakers. California’s state legislature hasn’t missed the opportunity presented by none other than Bill Cosby to pass a new law. Because whether you are a Congress, or a House, or a Senate, or an Assembly, the business of lawmakers is making law. Regardless of whether the law actually does anything.

In California, there is a statute of limitations on rape and child sexual abuse. The government has ten years to prosecute a rape, unless DNA evidence shows up. Then they get a year after the DNA evidence is found. Sex crimes against kids have to be prosecuted before the victim turns 40.

Those are, all things considered, fairly lengthy time limits. A decade for a regular rape. Several decades for child rape. It’s not like you have a clock ticking and need to race to the police station. Not a bad system. It can be pretty hard to defend a rape case under any circumstances. Decades after the fact, when all the witnesses and memories and defenses are gone, it’s nearly impossible.

But Cosby.

In a spectacular fall from grace, Bill Cosby went from America’s most beloved comedian to the poster boy for creepy sex predators. And that cannot stand unaddressed. Luckily, the California Senate is on guard and looking out for you. A bill was sent to the governor to remove those statutes of limitations.

If the governor signs the bill, those crimes could be prosecuted at any time.

SB 813 would not apply retroactively to crimes in which the statute of limitations will have expired by Jan. 1, 2017.

Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) introduced the bill after news that dozens of women have alleged Cosby raped them. Most of their cases cannot be prosecuted because the statutes of limitations for those alleged crimes have expired.

Leyva is worried about victims’ access to court, and this law addresses that.

“It’s called the Justice for Victims Act for one clear and specific reason: Victims should always have the opportunity to seek justice in a court of law after such a violent act,” Leyva said Tuesday just before the California state Senate voted unanimously to send the bill to the governor.

She has a point. When the founding fathers were considering the criminal justice system, and adding in rights that would protect people from an oppressive government, they recognized that accusers gonna accuse. And those accusers should have a wide range of rights so their accusations could be properly heard.

Just kidding. That’s not how it went down at all.

The criminal justice system isn’t for victims. It’s for the accused. Sorry if that makes your head explode from anger. But not sorry for saying it. Dance around it all you want, but victims are just witnesses in a criminal courtroom, and biased witnesses at that. Rape doesn’t change that. Not even a little bit.

This is an unpopular view. People think rape is different. It’s special. It deserves more attention and less due process. It requires belief. In fact, even being found not guilty doesn’t matter. Because if you are accused of rape, we know you did it.

But rape isn’t special. In a courtroom, it’s not any more special than murders or bank robberies or whatever else lands someone there. Unless lawmakers know something we don’t? Could it be that research shows the removal of these time limits will help bring violent criminals to justice? Will it protect us from the likes of Cosby?

Not according to the Los Angeles Times.

No one knows how many additional prosecutions a longer deadline or the abolition of any time limit might bring. California’s bill was not based on any study or systematic research, and allegations of decades-old crimes are often hard to prove — and difficult for a defendant to contest.

Oh. So California lawmakers didn’t actually think about this issue, they just passed a law. Sounds about right. Despite the fact it probably won’t do much, a prosecutor-sponsor of the bill reveals the reasoning behind it.

“But at least it gives victims an opportunity for law enforcement to really look into this,” said San Bernardino County Dist. Atty. Mike Ramos, a co-sponsor of the bill.  “At least they have their day to sit down and say what happened.”

Well, Mike, now it makes sense. No worries if it doesn’t actually address any real problem. The victims can finally tell their story. Ignore the fact they had 3650 days to tell it and neglected to.

A law professor pointed out one of the most obvious problems with the law.

“I have concern whenever we have knee-jerk legislation that seems to follow on a particular case or cause,” said Loyola law professor Laurie Levenson, a former prosecutor.

Right. Because laws that are created in response to one thing usually can’t fix that one thing and probably aren’t going to do much to fix any other things. So passing a whole law based on Bill Cosby may not be wise.

UC Berkeley law professor Franklin Zimring said the bill could result in questionable prosecutions, including some based on recovered memory.

“The prosecutor might take cases which have an enormous amount of publicity or an enormously attractive victim or an enormously vulnerable and important defendant,” he said.

Huh. Like…Bill Cosby?

The problem with the reasoning behind this law is apparent from its supporters’ comments. Gloria Allred, noted press conferencer TV personality California attorney, points out this law would have made a difference to Cosby’s accusers if it had been passed sixty years ago. Sixty years ago? There are really people out there who are okay with someone having to defend against an accusation that is over half a century old?

Criminal laws are not supposed to be easy. And they aren’t for the victims. Whether you like it or not, victims shouldn’t be controlling the criminal justice system. We live in a country of rights. Those rights are inconvenient. That’s how you know they are important. Important things are rarely easy. California is taking the easy road.

California law used to make it extremely difficult for prosecutors to win rape convictions, said Stanford University law professor Robert Weisberg. Now the tide of public sentiment has turned, and the state in recent years has been extending legal deadlines for filing sex crime charges.

The tide of public sentiment has no place in the criminal justice system. In fact, it seems like every time the public and its sentiment start meddling in the criminal justice system, it becomes just the criminal system.

5 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply



Comments for Fault Lines posts are closed here. You can leave comments for this post at the new site, faultlines.us

  • DaveL
    6 September 2016 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Now the tide of public sentiment has turned

    “The Tide of Public Sentiment” sounds ever so much better than the old term, ‘Lynching.”

  • losingtrader
    8 September 2016 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    Just hang the bastard in the town square

    I thought it was , “We’re going to give him a fair trial and then hang him.”

  • Sentenced In The Court Of Sad Feelz | Simple Justice
    10 October 2016 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    […] started, riding the wave of feelz beyond the return of mandatory minimums and elimination of statutes of limitations. Rushing to catch the wave is this upcoming article in Wake Forest Law Review by criminal law […]

  • Sex Crimes Meet Whenever | Simple Justice
    10 November 2016 at 9:25 am - Reply

    […] dad, Bill Cosby, wouldn’t result in prosecution because the statute of limitations had run. This was a travesty. This had to be changed, they exclaimed in the online petitions favored by […]

  • VideoPortal
    14 March 2017 at 5:30 am - Reply

    Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill eliminating the state’s statute of limitations for sex-related crimes on Wednesday.