The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the sexual assault conviction of Bill Cosby on Wednesday — but only because of a very, very specific set of legal circumstances.
The court's decision does not address "Cosby's conduct but rather the 'vast' violation of due process" he faced in the legal proceedings, NBC News' Tom Winter reports. In other words, the ruling "does not mean the sexual assault Cosby was convicted for did not take place," as MSNBC's Joyce Vance notes. "It's a technical legal decision based on conduct by the DA."
The crux of Wednesday's ruling rests on a prosecutor's earlier decision not to charge Cosby in what the district attorney deemed an "unwinnable case," which allowed the comedian to "speak freely" in a civil case against him, per Forbes and NBC News. The agreement was apparently intended to keep Cosby from pleading the Fifth Amendment. That testimony, however, "was key in his conviction years later by another prosecutor." Such an "unconstitutional coercive bait-and-switch" meant that, in the court's opinion, Cosby therefore could not legally be charged in the sexual assault case.
"Having identified a due process violation here, we must ascertain the remedy to which Cosby is entitled," the court writes in its opinion, which ruled in addition that testimonies from five other accusers further tainted the comedian's trial.
Wednesday's decision also means that Cosby cannot be tried again "on the same charges," per NBC News, but new charges could be filed "in a case involving another accuser," NBC10 Philadelphia notes. He is set to be picked up from prison on Wednesday by his publicist Andrew Wyatt, ABC News reports.