Bill Cosby will probably die in jail

April 26, 2018 • 1:30 pm

I was surprised at the verdict given the hung jury in Bill Cosby’s previous trial, but according to all accounts (and his own admission that he gave women drugs “to relax them” before having “consensual sex”), entertainer Bill Cosby appeared to be a serial rapist. And today he was found guilty of drug-accompanied rape. Justice appears to have been done, with Cosby convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against a woman he mentored at Temple University.

The guilty verdict this time undoubtedly involved the testimony of five corroborating witnesses who testified that Cosby raped them after giving them Quaaludes. The number of women who have accused him of this behavior in toto is about fifty!

The three counts for which he was convicted were penetration with lack of consent, penetration while unconscious, and penetration after administering an intoxicant. Each of these is a felony punishable by ten years in jail, but several sites note that he’ll probably serve them concurrently. Since Cosby is 80, it’s likely that he’ll still die in jail if he’s there for a decade.

It’s weird to think that the children’s entertainer and sitcom star will be wearing prison garb soon, but that’s what he deserves. One never knows what demons lurk in the apparently amiable—especially those with power. Cosby is too old to be rehabilitated and I doubt that he’d do it again (but who knows?); but at the very least he needs to be put away for a long time to deter others from the same odious behavior.

He still faces several civil suits that will bankrupt him. I won’t shed any tears for him, but I’m sorry for his wife and family, including three surviving children and five grandchildren. Their own lives will forever be lived under a pall of his misdeeds.

98 thoughts on “Bill Cosby will probably die in jail

  1. If he’s given the choice, who do you think he would choose for a cellmate: Old Weird Harold or Fat Albert, who greets him with a hearty “Hey, hey, hey!”

  2. I loved Bill Cosby the comic. We had his albums and could recite his routines by heart. It is immensely sad that an icon of decency has proven to be such a horrible person.

    1. Me too. I distinctly remember his routine about the Chicken Heart; as children we played the record* over and over until we learned it by heart. I hope the bastard dies in jail.

      *for you young-uns, back in the Pleistocene we used a magical machine that played music and voices from scratches on plastic discs called “records”. Ask your grandparents about them.

    2. I particularly remember the routine of the professional football player and “the kid,” passing the football to each other as a prelude to the player making a commercial pitch for a hair grooming product (a la Brylcream – “A Little Dab Will Do Ya”):

      “Throw it to me, the ball. Pick it up first.”

      “Hey kid, what’s the matter with your hair? What you need is some good ol’ Whatever-It-Is. Here, take a little and zip [,zim?]- on your HEAD!”

      I also liked his Noah routine. God says, “Noah, how long can you tread water?”

      (And to think that as a child hauled into the local Southern Baptist Church I [very temporarily] accepted the notion that God created the rainbow as evidence of his promise never again to cause such a flood. Until then I guess it was somehow impossible that raindrops could possibly act as prisms to separate light into its constituent colors.)

      1. There are people who have said that Descartes’ primary projects in his actual scientific work (not in the Meditations) are deliberate attempts at explaining items held to be miraculous. Hence the stuff about refraction in his stuff on dioptrics.

    3. I am so conflicted. One of the most hilarious bits I’ve ever heard from a stand-up comedian was from Cosby:

      “When I was a kid, my dad cursed so much that I thought my name was Jesus Christ. My brother thought his name was Dammit.

      Dammit, get off the couch!

      Jesus Christ, listen to your mother!

      One day, I was playing out in the rain. My father yelled, ‘Dammit, get in here!!’

      But Dad, I’m Jesus Christ!”

      Like a Carlin or Pryor or even Louis C.K. (ugh another predator) bit, the text alone doesn’t do it justice. Yet the comedic mind that spawned this genius comedy was also a monster of the lowest order. Alas.

      1. Yeah. People are complicated multitudes. A person can be genuinely caring and helpful in one set of circumstances and in another be genuinely predatory. With people like Cosby appears to be the predator is always going to make an appearance, sooner or later. At least that’s my personal experience.

      2. Nothing to do with crosby ,but any one out there heard of Dr beetching ?,he wrote a report that lead to the shutting down of a lot of branch lines in the 1960s .
        Anyway ,for a long time i thought his name was Dr bastard beeching ,because that’s how my late father used to refer to him .

  3. Not only do his family members suffer the consequences of Cosby’s criminal behavior, but his co-stars will lose out on residuals that surely won’t come there way now that no one would air any of Cosby’s shows.

  4. Obviously it was Cosby’s free will that committed all these acts and therefore he “should”, that is to say “deserves to”, die in jail, although nobody believes he’d do any of it again.

    Or is there something I don’t understand about the judicial philosophy of will-deniers?

    Well, I think rapists ought to go to prison, but, then again, I’m a compatibilist.

    1. It took me about 8.5 seconds to find this quote from our host;

      “I’m a determinist about human behavior, which I think is the only rational stance to take if you accept science. Like all of us, Van Houten was a product of her genes and her environment. That does not mean, of course, that she shouldn’t have been incarcerated for her crime. There are three reasons why even determinists favor incarceration: protection of society from an unreformed criminal, deterrence for others who see what will happen if they transgress, and reformation of the inmate so that they can be released.”

      In future, you should try that little search feature up there on the upper left of the page if you’ve questions about how Dr PCC(e) (at least) views these issues. Nevertheless, although there are undoubtedly further abstractions from Dr Coyne and others who share his views that go beyond those in the quote, these should give you a starting point in your rebuttal.

    2. As mikeyc notes above, your comment is snarky, completely ignores what I’ve written about determinism before, and is not only directed at me but is irrelevant. I’ve clearly laid out what I’ve seen as the justification for imprisonment.

      Why do people act like this on the internet? You’re not just asking questions, but being passive-aggressive and, as I’ll put it gently, “uncivil.”

      1. Let me try a more polite form of what I think he is reacting to. You wrote Cosby “should” and “deserves to” go to jail. There are non-compatibilist ways to read should (need for deterrence, etc.) but “deserves to” sounds very like the kind of moral judgment we compatibilists make and which you, I think, claim to eschew. Yet there it is. Isn’t it a fair criticism of anti-compatibilists that they naturally resort to compatibilist language and logic? The whole content of compatibilism is that these natural concepts are useful in discussing human behavior.

        1. I may never get the compatibilist/determinist terminology settled in my mind, but everyone will use emphatic terminology like ‘should’ and ‘deserve’ in compelling moments. The model is that we lack free will but we are not aware of it.

          1. I am asking about Coyne as an anti-compatibilist. Under your hypothesis compatibilism is correct.

          2. My name here is “Jerry”, not “Coyne”. And I’m not convinced by your semantic argument, which is the equivalent of those Christians who say “See, you said ‘bless you’ when someone sneezed, so you believe in God!”

            Do I need to explain to you that by “ought to go to jail” or “deserves to go to jail” means, to me, “this should happen for the good of society?” You can call that a “moral judgement” if you want, but so what? I still don’t think Cosby could have done anything other than what he did, and so I’m still a determinist and I do not believe in free will, which I (and most people) conceive of as a “could have done otherwise” free will. So I am not a compatibilist, and all your twisting and construal of my language will not make me accept that. Your argument is semantic, pure and simple. And please stop calling me “Coyne” as if I’m not around.

          3. Jerry,

            I have to admit the same issue stuck out to me. When, after your many posts telling us people don’t “deserve” jail (in a moral, retributive sense) it did seem jarring to see you say ” but that’s what he deserves.”

            It seems your response is essentially “I’ve written about my views before so you know what I meant.”

            On one hand..yes we know your views. But part of the debate is noting inconsistencies in the other side’s arguments or assumptions.
            So I don’t think one can just grant that you weren’t being inconsistent. Part of the compatibilist case is that incompatibilists will find it hard to speak and act consistently on their incompatibilist beliefs, and that this is actually a telling problem. (It’s why we keep pointing to the apparent inconsistency of how incompatibilists can’t seem to avoid talk of choice and options, in the same situations everyone else does).

            For my part, being familiar with your writing, I didn’t think you’d suddenly dropped your stance on free will.

            But it is a confusing use of the word given your previous stance on moral desert. In essence, it seems you used a word which connotes the opposite of your usual stance, and which does not normally mean in normal discourse what you’ve just said you meant by the word.

            Sort of like using the word “guilty” when the audience is supposed to interpret the word as “innocent.”

            I DID wonder if your use of “deserve” arose as it does in most people, an indication that you actually had the sentiment naturally felt by most people that “he got what he deserved.” Even IF that’s a sentiment you don’t think is ultimately warranted on determinism.

          4. Dear Jerry
            I think the issue is not so much of “ought” but your use of the term “deterent”. For something to act as a deterent it must be something that a (somewhat) rational actor can factor into their control mechanisms (I cant deter the mad, a baby, my cat who doesnt understand etc–all the usual examples). And once you admit that (e.g. control mechanisms that either work/do not work) you are as close to being a compatibilist as makes no difference. That’s what a compatibilist is–someone who believes that control (not on/off but on a scale) is a meaningful concept.

          5. “(I cant deter the mad, a baby, my cat who doesnt understand etc–all the usual examples)”

            This is not true. If you want to deter a cat from scratching the furniture you can, for example, block the door to the room or cover it up with plastic. Or you might pour noxious-smelling liquid all around it.

            Deterrence doesn’t require understanding. It simply requires recognition of something you don’t like.

          6. Obviously I agree with Craw. I believe Jerry is a compatibilist determinist in practice, but finds it somehow impossible to use the words.

          7. Ummm. . .. .that makes about as much sense as saying, “Jerry is a really religious person in practice because he says ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes or ‘god help you’ when someone’s doing something futile.”
            As I’ve said, I, like everyone else, feel as if I’m have agency, and use words like “choose, but not for a moment do I believe that I have “you-can-do-otherwise” free will. I am a determinist (are you?). I accept that illusion, see it as an illusion, but that doesn’t make me a compatibilist (which you know means that free will is compatible with determinism) simply because I use language that free willers use, like “choose.” As I’ve said repeatedly, and which you don’t seem to have grasped, you can use that language as shorthand without accepting contracausal free will.

            And who are you to tell me that I’m a “compatibilist determinist”? Who are you to tell me what I believe, and that I really do accept the form of free will that I reject? Of course, if you define free will as some philosophers do (they vary), for example as Dennett does–that we really are deterministic computers, but VERY COMPLICATED ONES—then yes, I believe in a complicated determinism redefined as free will. But that is not using the term “free will” as most people see it: as contracausal free will.

            I’m continually amazed that people tell me what I REALLY believe when they haven’t even read what I’ve written. Your argument is a weak one, based entirely on semantics, and I reject it. The important thing, as I’ve said repeatedly, is whether you’re a physical determinist with respect to human behavior. If the answer is yes, the rest is semantics.

            Your comment is presumptuous and patronizing.

          8. I simply mean that you are a compatibilist determinist in the same sense as Dennett and Pinker are and I am. My original comment was meant as a joke about language.

          9. (Putting aside the debatable claim that most people assume contra-causal free will…or that compatibilists have “re-defined” free will… )

            “…complicated determinism redefined as free will. But that is not using the term “free will” as most people see it: as contracausal free will.”

            On your own account, most people associate actually having a “choice” with contra-causal powers. Yet you continue to use words like “choose” and “choice” (and no doubt others relating to options and the free will debate), re-defined to be made compatible with determinism.

            So by your own account you are not using “choice” as most people see it.

            Why would it be fine when an incompatibilist like yourself does this, but it’s a strike against compatibilists?

            This apparent inconstancy in your critique of compatibilism has been raised many times but I haven’t seen you directly address it (unless of course I missed it).

            Perhaps you would want to say that “Free Will” is somehow a more pernicious phrase to conserve. But it’s just a phrase that refers to a question; you don’t get rid of the question by throwing away a specific phrase about the question. You’ll still be left having to answer the same questions “free will” stood for in any case.

            The very concept of “having a choice” is central to the concept of Free Will. But you’ve noticed there is something worth preserving about the word, insofar as it can describe real states of affairs in the world, real things human beings do, but understood as compatible with determinism. Exactly what compatibilists do for the phrase Free Will.

            Given that “choice” sits at the heart of the concept of having free will, there is little difference between conserving that word and educating people about it’s compatibility with determinism, vs conserving the phrase “Free Will.” Dropping the term “free will” will still leave people asking the same question “do I REALLY have a choice?” with the same connotations that have to be unwrapped whether the words “free will” are used or not.

            This is one reason why many of the compatibilists here see you as essentially criticizing compatibilism on one hand, but being necessarily led down the compatibilist path on the other, but not acknowledging it.
            (You of course don’t go the whole way with compatibilists, but our critique is that this inevitably leads to the inconsistancies we believe we identify in your ideas around Free Will).

          10. Hi, Well, I certainly dont want to claim that I can read Jerry’s mind…
            But the issue of deterrence still seems to me to be the key one. If someone can be deterred by the promise of future bad consequences then they are under (somewhat) rational control. And its rationality of control that the compatibilist is arguing for (and yes, I have asked DD about this personally and this is indeed what he thinks).
            The “could have done otherwise” seems like a compelling anti-compatibilist position–and its true that viewed a certain way the person could not have done otherwise. But this says nothing about our understanding the reasosn why they did do as they did and seeing those things as rational (or not)
            This lies at the heart of our legal definitions of responsiblity as well. I dont know the terms in the US but over here we have the concept of the M’Naughten rules (named after a guy who thought the Prime Minister was plotting against him and tried to assassinate him). Its the insanity defence.
            Now–someone who acts as they do because they are paranoid, and someone who acts as they do because they are rational, are both determined–but it matters a lot what they are determined BY. If they are determined by a faulty frontal lobe then we reduce our sense that they are responsible (and we wouldnt treat them as people who should be in control of anything much). But a rational actor is trustworthy precisely because their actions are determined by reasons. That’s all a compatibilist needs (or wants).

          11. ” they are under (somewhat) rational control”

            I don’t see why rationality necessarily has anything to do with it. All kinds of animals respond to operant conditioning. If it works in everything from planaria to chimps, why do you need human reason to punishment work for people?

      2. Let me try putting it another way (and it’s the reason why almost all analytic philosophers are compatibilists)…The goal of philosophers (it’s an ideal, of course) is to have all thoughts and actions be as completely determined by reason as can occur.
        Choice isn’t really an interesting thing for this ideal. When Martin Luther said “Here I stand, I can do no other”, he didn’t want someone to offer him wiggle room. Well, neither do those who want to be fully rational. Their actions can be the result of deliberations–but they dont want any random element in there at all. At this level of magnification, choice is just sort of irrelevant.

        1. GB James. You dont see why rationality has anything to do with decsion making? Then I can’t help you mate. You have bigger problems than a bit of philosophy can help with.

          1. HelenaHandbasket: Did you miss the word “necessarily”?

            I note that you simply ignored the rest of my point.

          2. HelenaHandbasket: Did you miss the word “necessarily”?

            I note that you simply ignored the rest of my point.

  5. Yes, looks like the next step is the defense will try to get a stay and expect to appeal. Could drag on for some time. Looks like lots of his money goes to the lawyers, similar to Trump and the whole gang in Washington. It is hard to believe what Cosby became. Money and fame must give some people a false sense of power and privilege that sometimes does not exist. Trump is currently giving that one a big test. His rant against the justice department today and running his mouth on Fox just might do him in before others get to him. The embarrassment for this country just goes on.

    1. Hard to imagine how every day tRump can top himself. But he does, over and over.

      Maybe Cosby and tRump will end up a cell mates.

      1. Trump better not accept a cup of coffee from Cosby.
        The thoughts.. cannot erase the thoughts….

    2. I heard a lot of that unhinged rant on Faux. WTF? Nutty lies, desperate protestations and obvious confusion throughout…this is what happens when he’s not limited to 140 characters and is talking directly to his base; I think being on the tube makes him especially manic. It was a minutes-long verbal Twitter storm…and a terrifying one at that. Anyone who still thinks this guy should be POTUS is truly a delusional.

    1. You must be getting some of that fake news since he has not yet been sentenced and his lawyer just said they will appeal.

  6. Well, it seems like he is a bad guy.

    I did have one problem with the trial, however (and I haven’t followed it closely, just the NPR coverage, so I may have this wrong).

    The prosecution was allowed to bring in women to testify that he had committed crimes other than the ones for which he was on trial. These might be germane, if he had been convicted of them, in sentencing. But to me, this just seemed like trying to sway the jury with innuendo. Or using stories as evidence.

    Even if he had been convicted of the other crimes, that is not evidence that he was guilty of the one for which he was on trial. Again, germane at sentencing, not during the finding of guilt phase.

    Then again, I’m not a lawyer. Seems to me like potential grounds for an appeal.

    As noted, seems like he is a bad guy.

    1. I’m not a lawyer either but do believe that allowing 5 of the nearly 60 women who have accused him of similar attacks is just a bit of a pattern. And also know that those women who did testify had to put up with all kinds of threats and abuse. Why would all of the history on this issue be hidden from a jury?

    2. I think the prosecution did that to establish a pattern of conduct by Cosby. It is certainly allowable.

    3. Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) — which most states, including Pennsylvania, have also adopted — provides that evidence of other “crimes, wrongs, and bad acts” is not admissible merely to attack a criminal defendant’s character by showing that he or she acted in accordance with that character during the incident at issue.

      Such evidence, nevertheless, may be admissible for a purpose other to attack the defendant’s character — such as to establish “motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident[.]” In this case, the trial judge ruled that testimony regarding Cosby’s prior attacks on five other women was admissible, presumably to show a pattern of behavior making it less likely that the charged incident resulted from some type of mistake regarding this victim’s mental capacity to consent to sexual contact (although, as I understand it, the judge was not specific as to his reasoning).

      The trial court’s decision to allow this evidence will very likely be the most important issue Cosby’s counsel raises on appeal.

      1. I can sort of see the reasoning; but it seems mighty tenuous to me and seems a whole lot more like: Make him look like a bad person (therefore he’s probably guilty).

        To be clear, I have almost zero doubt that he’s guilty of this crime and very likely many others.

        But, as a society, (in the persons of the court and prosecutors), we are obliged to follow the rules.

    4. Defense can call character witnesses to vouch for Cosby.

      If you’re having any doubts about whether the verdict was just I suggest you consider the other 60 women accusers and ask yourself how likely it is they are all lying. Also, watch the reactions to the verdict of the 5 who testified: they came out of the courtroom and were crying hysterically and ask yourself how likely they are acting.

  7. The first hung jury is a bit of interest. Often, prosecution will not bother to retry, as they have already spent resources to no end. But, when they are highly motivated — against a mobster or a high profile celebrity, they will learn from any errors in the first trial and often do better next time. That clearly happened here.

    1. I don’t intend to defend Bill Cosby here, but I don’t think it’s right to retry someone after a failure to convict. As you say, the prosecution “will learn from any errors in the first trial”, and will examine the strategy of the defense in order to specifically ward it off on the next try.

      If this practice was constitutionally legal it would enable the government to use its virtually unlimited resources to ultimately win any case, and I believe that was precisely what our Founding Fathers intended to prevent with the Seventh Amendment provision that says “nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”

      1. A hung jury is not a conclusion. And retrial when a jury is hung is obviously not unconstitutional.

        As for learning from what the other side did before cuts both directions.

        If a jury comes to a conclusion then double jeopardy is relevant. That isn’t the case here.

      2. It isn’t after a failure to convict. An acquittal is a failure to convict and would preclude a retrial. It is a failure to conclude; the hung jury renders the trial nugatory.

      3. You write: As you say, the prosecution “will learn from any errors in the first trial”, and will examine the strategy of the defense in order to specifically ward it off on the next try.”

        No, the prosecution will not try to out maneuver the defense. The prosecution’s job is to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A hung jury means the jury could not reach a conclusion. The prosecution believes Cosby to be guilty (this is why he is charged), and simply needs to adjust how they present that case to the jury so they can reach a conclusion. Double jeopardy is not an issue with a hung jury and retrial.

        Mr. Cosby also has right to appeal. But, his appeal must demonstrate that errors were made that affected the verdict. So, Cosby is not without rights here.

        1. The three of you above talk about conclusions. The Seventh Amendment is about being put in jeopardy, meaning having to defend yourself, and in my view this government policy of “the game’s not over until I win.” is patently unfair and unconstitutional.

          1. No. It isn’t “The game isn’t over until I win.” It is “The game isn’t over until a trial is concluded.”

            A hung jury is not a concluded trial. What’s so hard about this? It isn’t unconstitutional. It is a normal feature of our justice system and has been all along.

          2. As has been pointed out several times, it isn’t “not over until I win”. An acquittal ends it, the state loses and cannot retry.

            It is the fifth amendment which mentions jeopardy not the seventh.

          3. If you are making this case because you do not know the law, then okay. But if you are making it because you think Cosby innocent, that is really something. They let but 5 of his accusers testify. There were 19 out of the dozens who were willing.

          4. The very first thing I wrote, which you can verify above, was “I don’t intend to defend Bill Cosby here.”

            And what I’ve stated here is that I see a lack of fairness and constitutionality in the law, which doesn’t justify an ad hominem attack that I don’t know the law.

            In short, you’ve presented a false dichotomy between two alternatives, both of which are false. It looks like it’s time to end this before it gets ended for us.

            By the way, as Craw noted, it’s the Fifth Amendment, not the Seventh, that forbids double jeopardy. Sorry about that, I was misled by this page.

          5. Hey. You said – that failure to convict in the first trial should have been the end and to have the second trial was just not a good thing. Everyone told you the first was hung. It ain’t over until the fat lady sings. There is no lack of fairness in the law and it is perfectly legal and correct to have another trial. Whatever your problem is…I don’t get it.

          6. Yes, Cosby was put in jeopardy when indicted. And following a hung jury Cosby remained in jeopardy.

            A hung jury is neither an acquittal or a conviction — it is the lack of any conclusion to the trial that would have removed jeopardy.

            He was in jeopardy before the hung jury and he remained in jeopardy after. His status never changed.

          7. Do I correctly understand that, in criminal (if not also civil?) cases, that a jury is hung if the jurors’ verdict is not unanimous?

            If so, seems that that would also be a good standard for SCOTUS decisions.

          8. I believe a criminal trial jury must be unanimous. Prosecutors may look at the breakdown of a hung jury to determine if they want to retry (say, 10-2 in favor of conviction). But SCOTUS are not the same as a jury. To expect all SCOTUS decision to be unanimous would mean almost nothing will get decided. If a case makes it all the way to SCOTUS, it is almost by definition a difficult case to decide.

          9. Certainly nderstanding that there surely is some kind of difference between a local court jury and the SCOTUS, I think it legitimate to ask why anyone should think it reasonable to expect a jury to return a unanimous verdict; that it is reasonable to retry one or more times a case simply and solely because not every member of a jury agreed.

            I don’t hear anyone saying that a given juror’s political views have any bearing on a verdict, whereas, the political/ideological views of a SCOTUS nominee apparently has a bearing on the outcome of a Supreme Court case. Why is a simple majority jury vote not satisfactory? (Perhaps there should be 11 or 13 on a jury, not 12, so as to avoid “deadlocked” juries.)

      4. In criminal cases “jeopardy” attaches when the jury is sworn at the start of trial. The Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy clause prohibits a defendant from being charged again, or from being retried, for the same offense after a either conviction or acquittal. Where the jury declares it is deadlocked after deliberations, the trial judge has the discretion to declare a mistrial. In such instances, “jeopardy” has not concluded, but continues through any retrial.

        Also, in the vast majority of cases where a jury announces a deadlock, it will be the defense that asks the trial judge to declare a mistrial, rather than to risk having the court give the jury a so-called “dynamite” instruction (aka an “Allen charge,” after the eponymous SCOTUS decision in Allen v. United States approving such instructions) and ordering the jurors to continue their deliberations, since such a practice drastically increases the odds of conviction. (Indeed, it is tantamount for malpractice for criminal defense counsel to fail to seek a mistrial under such circumstances.)

        Consequently, in addition to the trial judge’s inherent discretion to discharge a deadlocked jury, by requesting a mistrial the the defendant consents to being retried.

  8. I happened to hear an announcer on MSNBC make this observation in reporting on the Cosby verdict: ‘It’s a seminal day.’

  9. This will be a huge disappointment to Tariq Nasheed, one of the New Racists and frequent bashers of “New Atheism”.

    He is convinced Cosby was framed, or something.

  10. I’m a determinist like many of you (including our host). And I wonder what good it will do for Cosby to die in jail?! I am emotionally in favor him doing so, but that’s an emotional and revenge-based wish that I’m attempting to set aside, since I deeply believe that revenge is an unhelpful emotion.

    PCC has opined that Cosby is unlikely to reoffend (and I tend to agree) and therefore his incarceration is not going to protect society, nor is rehabilitation necessary. So it would seen we’re down to the last justification: let this serve as a warning to others. In fact, PCC states this in his article.

    So my question is this: does the punishment of others actually deter would-be evildoers? I’m no expert here, but I’m sure some of you are.

    1. All of that heavy thinking is nice but in the end we are suppose to be a civilization of laws. Without laws and rules we have nothing. A guy that attacks and rapes must pay the penalty regardless of whether it deters anything. What would you do, give the guy a cookie?

    2. Good question. I’m no expert but the folks at the National Institute of Justice probably are.

      In their page “Five things about deterrence” (, which begins;

      “Does punishment prevent crime? If so, how, and to what extent? Deterrence — the crime prevention effects of the threat of punishment — is a theory of choice in which individuals balance the benefits and costs of crime.”

      Seems to be on point to your question. Here are the five things they had to say;

      1. The certainty of being caught is a vastly more powerful deterrent than the punishment.
      2. Sending an individual convicted of a crime to prison isn’t a very effective way to deter crime.
      3. Police deter crime by increasing the perception that criminals will be caught and punished.
      4. Increasing the severity of punishment does little to deter crime.
      5. There is no proof that the death penalty deters criminals.

      1. Maybe ask the guy who wonders about this – What if the woman he rapped was you’re wife or daughter?

          1. Personally speaking, more times than not I perceive rap to be an assault on the senses.

        1. So, I get where you’re coming from; but revenge is a poor reason to punish, in my opinion, from a moral and legal standpoint. If incarceration protects the public, well and good.

      2. Incarceration prevents crime for the time the criminal is locked up. Since he was a serial offender, a lot of crime would have been prevented had he been locked up 40 years ago.

      3. Yes, I think most of the deterrent value comes with the risk of being caught (and, thus, being exposed to some form of punishment). It is crucial for maintaining respect for the law, I think, that punishment be seen as proportionate to the crime. Punishments viewed as a mere slap on the wrist or, conversely, that are disproportionately harsh, or that vary wildly from offender to offender for the same offense, breed contempt for our criminal justice system.

        There is very little deterrent value that comes with increasing punishments beyond these minima — and none whatever, I think, that comes from drastically increasing already harsh sentences, say from 10 years to 20. This is the terrible mistake our US congress (and many state legislatures) made during the late 1980s through the early 2000s when they went on an orgy of enacting ever-increasing mandatory sentences (many of them for nonviolent drug offenses).

        And there’s no evidence to suggest the death penalty has any deterrent effect at all.

    3. Although the death penalty doesn’t seem to be a deterrent (some disagree), law and punishment is absolutely a deterrent. Do you think that if there were no penalty for not paying taxes that people would all dutifully pay their taxes. Or if there were no punishment for flouting traffic rules everybody would still stop at stop signs and red lights?

      The ultimate test is what happens when the rule of law breaks down, as happened during the Montreal police strike. This is what Steve Pinker says about it in The Blank Slate:

      “When law enforcement vanishes, all manner of violence breaks out: looting, settling old scores, ethnic cleansing, and petty warfare among gangs, warlords and mafias. This was obvious in the remnants of Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and parts of Africa in the 1990s, but can also happen in countries with a long tradition of civility. As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin’s anarchism. I laughed off my parents’ argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 A.M. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike. By 11:20 A.M. the first bank was robbed. By noon most downtown stores had closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a limousine service that had competed with them for airport customers, a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer, rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor slew a burglar in his suburban home. By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call in the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order. This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist).”

      1. It is surprisingly difficult to find evidence that greater severity of punishment deters crime, despite the fact that it seems it should. However, a higher probability of punishment has been shown to have a deterrent effect, I believe.

      2. I don’t get those analogies. Seems like the deterrent is the possibility of being caught and not the punishment.

        If there was 100% chance that the IRS would find out that I didn’t pay my taxes, and then make me pay them anyway, I would go ahead and pay them in advance. If there is only 10% they would find out, then I might take my chances, even if there was some penalty involved.

        Similarly, if there is 100% chance that I’d be identified for running a light or for a crime, and then be made to take remedial action (like paying back for damage I caused, or take the driving test again, etc.) then I would avoid the activity to begin with. But if the probability of being caught is low, then I would take my chances, irrespective of the punishment.

        I don’t think sexual predators are worried or even know about the punishment.

        1. Obviously if there is no chance of getting caught, you wouldn’t care about the punishment. But what should deter you more: a certain punishment of five years in the slammer, or a 50% chance of ten years? The expected punishment is the same (five years in the slammer), but we should expect a risk averse person to prefer the former and therefore find the latter a bigger deterrent. Yet that doesn’t seem to be the case for criminals. Perhaps criminals, by their nature, prefer risk rather than avoid it.

        2. For what it’s worth, the IRS almost certainly “knows” whether you’re cheating on your taxes; whether or not the IRS decides to follow up with you based on its inferences that you’re practicing tax evasion is determined by several factors, such as how big a fish you are and how difficult it would be to prosecute you.

          What you, as a taxpayer, have to determine is how much you want the IRS to be a part of your life. The bigger your appetite for dealing with the IRS, the more risks you’re likely to take. Those of us who’ve miscalculated and subsequently been tied up with the IRS for years know that no amount of money you might avoid giving the IRS is worth it.

          And the way the IRS continues to secure tax payer compliance is that people like me write things like this. All you have to do is harass one person to death, and she will tell other people for the rest of her life that you do not ever want to mess with the IRS. See how that works?

    4. I can’t imagine him having an opportunity to re-offend. He gained the trust of his victims before assaulting them, and no woman will trust him now.

    5. …what good it will do for Cosby to die in jail?! I am emotionally in favor him doing so, but that’s an emotional and revenge-based wish that I’m attempting to set aside, since I deeply believe that revenge is an unhelpful emotion….

      Yes, revenge is an unhelpful emotion, but the principle of retributive justice is an important part of the law that theoretically removes emotion from the decision process. The only emotions we need consider are those of the victims. We must have a mechanism by which we measure out the correct amount of suffering to apply to the convicted criminal. Justice is supposed to be fair after all.

      I’m against prison in nearly all cases – it doesn’t confront the criminal DAILY with the consequences of his deeds. Crims where possible should be out there in society earning back full citizenship in a way appropriate to their transgressions. There are obvious exceptions such as those who present a threat to others.

      That said, serial rapist Cosby is a candidate for a life term in prison. He is literally remorseless – he seems to believe his victims to be a natural resource for ‘harvesting’ as needed. To be nothing but his due.

      Because Cosby sees himself as unjustly treated & because he will never be broke [the wealthy know the tricks re monies & assets] I think he will always be a danger to women. Left in society, even at 80, he’d just have to change his MO so that it doesn’t depend so much on his former trustworthy, fatherly, cuddly image.

      It is a great pity that most of his victims will not get a direct form of justice. I hope he lives to 120 – in prison, it may comfort some of his victims to know he’s away for ever.

  11. Of course, by his own actions, Cosby has no credibility to ever again presume to lecture some one on how to behave and to do better. I guess it falls under the all-too-frequent “Do As I Say, Not As I Do.” Apparently this is “human nature,” just as it is human nature not to want to hear and bear up under criticism, no matter how reasonable and legitimate.

    Listening to NPR this afternoon, the presenter was good to remind listeners that Cosby got some heat for lecturing the black community, but somehow neglected to inform listeners that there were not a few cheers in response to the sentiments he expressed at an NAACP convention some years ago.

    Text at

    Various permutations of the audio is findable on Youtube. The words, and their logic and reasonableness, stand or fall on their own merits, regardless of who uttered them. is perhaps worth a listen.

  12. There’s a huge difference between drugging someone without their knowledge and giving someone drugs that are then taken by that person.

    I haven’t followed the case in detail, but I do seem to recall that Cosby never admitted doing anything but the latter. And if that’s all he did, the claim that he drugged and raped women is false.

    Whether any of the women he was with took enough of the drug to render then incapacitated is another matter. Simply being on a particular drug does not mean one cannot agree to sex.

    1. If he lied to them about the effects of the drug (seems quite likely), and intended for the drug to incapacitate them so he could “take advantage of them,” then I think he has committed a crime, even though they took the drug (more or less) voluntarily (who knows what pressure he put on them?).

  13. There was always something creepy about Cosby. I never could put my finger on it, but I didn’t like his show in the 80’s and there was always an unnerving arrogance about him in talk shows. And I can’t help but wonder if he feels remorseful for what he did not only to those women, but to his family. Ugh!

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