HARRISBURG − July 2, 2021 − Senators Lisa Baker (R-20) and Steve Santarsiero (D-10) announced their intention to introduce legislation requiring all future non-prosecution agreements to be in writing to be enforceable.
The action comes in response to the recently decided case of Commonwealth v. Cosby, where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the criminal convictions of Cosby for aggravated indecent assault.
The Court’s decision was based upon the fact that certain inculpatory testimony, which had been given in depositions at an earlier civil trial, was admitted at Cosby’s subsequent criminal trial. Overturning the trial court’s determination to the contrary, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that the testimony of Cosby at the earlier civil trial was provided only after an enforceable oral non-prosecution agreement was entered into with Cosby, and that Cosby relied on that agreement in providing his testimony at the civil trial. Allowing the admission of the inculpatory testimony, according to the Court, violated Cosby’s due process rights.
“The recent Supreme Court decision in Commonwealth v. Cosby highlighted a need for clearer rules regarding the prosecution of crimes,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “Requiring that non-prosecution agreements must be in writing will protect the due process rights of the accused, while helping to ensure that victims have access to justice.”
“The oral agreement may be legal for the moment, but it is indefensible given what we have learned about the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment throughout our society,” said Sen. Baker. “The system is slanted too heavily toward perpetrators, discouraging reporting and denying a true chance of justice for those with the fortitude to bring charges.”
“This oral agreement turned into a horrible miscarriage of justice. We must act to prevent a repetition,” Baker and Santarsiero added.
The Senators serve as the Republican and Democratic chairs, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction in this matter.