Jurors in Cosby sex assault trial deadlocked, told to keep talking
Maryclaire Dale and Michael R. Sisak, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, June 15, 2017 12:08PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 15, 2017 11:12PM EDT
NORRISTOWN, Pa. - Four days after getting the case, deadlocked jurors in Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial struggled to end their impasse Thursday on charges he drugged and molested a woman in 2004, the prospect of a mistrial growing larger even as the judge directed them to keep talking.
Still undecided, they wrapped up after 9 p.m. and will resume their work Friday morning.
The jurors had deliberated about 30 hours before telling Judge Steven O'Neill they couldn't reach a unanimous decision on any of the counts against the 79-year-old comedian. The judge told them to try again for a verdict.
The sequestered panel of seven men and five women complied, pondering the charges for nine more hours before asking to go back to their hotel.
Jurors who have appeared stressed and even angry seemed more upbeat than on previous nights, despite enduring another marathon session in a case that has already helped torpedo Cosby's career and nice-guy reputation.
Several jurors smiled or nodded approvingly when the judge said they must be exhausted and should start fresh Friday.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you have done,” O'Neill told them.
Cosby left the courthouse shortly afterward.
The charges involve Cosby's sexual encounter with Andrea Constand, 44, at his suburban Philadelphia home. Constand says Cosby gave her pills that made her woozy, then violated her. His lawyer says Cosby and Constand were lovers sharing a consensual moment of intimacy.
Cosby's spokesman maintained the impasse showed that jurors doubted Constand's story.
“They're conflicted about the inconsistencies in Ms. Constand's testimony,” spokesman Andrew Wyatt said. “And they're hearing Mr. C.'s testimony, and he's extremely truthful. And that's created this doubt.”
Constand's lawyer, Dolores Troiani, said only that the “jury is apparently working very hard.” The district attorney's office declined to comment.
Constand passed the time by shooting hoops in a hallway outside the district attorney's office. She tweeted a video that shows her shooting a mini-basketball into a net to the tune of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” the theme song of the Harlem Globetrotters. It ended with a phrase scrolling down the screen reading: “ALWAYS FOLLOW THROUGH.”
Constand won a national title with the University of Arizona and played in a pro league in Europe before landing a job with the Temple University women's basketball team. It was at Temple she met Cosby, a member of the board of trustees.
With the jury struggling to find common ground, some of the other women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault confronted sign-waving Cosby supporters gathered on the courthouse steps to await the outcome. But the atmosphere remained calm, with accusers and supporters even holding hands at times.
Cosby's spokesman Wyatt invited a family of four supporters to meet with the comedian inside the courthouse Thursday night. Wyatt said he believed a chat with the couple and their 14-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter would brighten Cosby's spirits.
Dozens of women have come forward to say Cosby had drugged and assaulted them, but this was the only case to result in criminal charges.
The 12-member jury must come to a unanimous decision to convict or acquit. If the panel can't break the deadlock, the judge could declare a hung jury and a mistrial. In that case, prosecutors would get four months to decide whether they want to retry the TV star or drop the charges.
University of Pennsylvania law professor David Rudovsky, a criminal lawyer in Philadelphia, said Thursday that the jurors' inability to agree on a verdict didn't surprise him, given the nature of a case that boiled down to Cosby's word against his accuser's and the legal meaning of consent.
He added a hung jury would be a victory for Cosby.
“In most criminal cases, anything short of a conviction is a win for the defence,” said Rudovsky, who isn't involved in the case. “It doesn't surprise me that this jury is split. The prosecution had a strong case, but the defence was able to show a lot of inconsistencies.”
The jurors have appeared increasingly tired and upset as deliberations dragged on for nearly 40 hours over four days. Some of them looked defeated as the judge sent them back to the jury room. One, more upbeat, nodded along.
The jury, bused in from the Pittsburgh area, has paused a half-dozen times to revisit key evidence, including Cosby's decade-old admissions that he fondled Constand after giving her pills.
Each of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Cosby carries a maximum 10-year prison term, though the counts could be merged at sentencing if he is convicted.
The case has already helped demolish his image as America's Dad, cultivated during his eight-year run as kindly Dr. Cliff Huxtable on the top-rated “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s and '90s.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.