NORRISTOWN, Pa.— An elderly juror dozed off in the jury box. Bill Cosby let out a huge yawn. The judge mistakenly called Cosby’s attorney the name of his alleged victim.
In ways large and small, the stress and fatigue of the latter stages of Cosby’s sex assault trial were showing late Wednesday as deliberations stretched into a third day and once again the jury went home without reaching a verdict.
The jurors who are deciding whether the famed entertainer drugged and sexually assaulted a Temple University women’s basketball staff member in 2004 have lived in hotel rooms since being bused from Pittsburgh to the working-class Philadelphia suburb of Norristown. Their every move is made under the watchful eyes of security officers in a courthouse that is beginning to look like a fortress, with squadrons of heavily armed men and at least one police dog.
The unusual jury arrangement was prompted by defense claims that intense pretrial publicity in Montgomery County, Pa., where the trial is being held, would necessitate selecting jurors in another county. The resulting sequestration of the seven men and five women on Cosby’s jury — along with six alternates — has made the 79-year-old comic legend’s trial all the more complicated.
Steven T. O’Neill, the Montgomery County judge overseeing the case, has pushed the jury hard, bringing them to the courthouse before 9 a.m., and keeping them working well past dark on the first two nights of deliberation. On Tuesday night, the jurors said they were “exhausted,” and O’Neill allowed them to return to their hotels at 9:15 p.m. after 12 hours of deliberations — a mere 15 minutes earlier than he said he had planned to keep them.
In the course of more than 20 hours of deliberations over three days, the jurors seem to be replaying the trial piece by piece. From their cloistered deliberation room, they’ve transmitted one note to the judge asking to clarify a legal term and three requesting long rehashings of evidence and testimony.
Late Wednesday, they filed into Courtroom A in the stately Montgomery County courthouse after asking to re-listen to all of plaintiff Andrea Constand’s testimony about the night she says Cosby tricked her into taking pills that left her “frozen” and unable to stop him from sexually assaulting her.
O’Neill seemed to give the jurors an out, reminding them that the testimony is lengthy and was drawn from 300 pages of transcripts. But the jurors made no move to change their request. A court reporter, reading rapidly, spent 20 minutes repeating every word Constand and the attorneys questioning her said about the incident during dramatic testimony last week.
Cosby, sitting at the defense table, let out a giant yawn before the court reporter launched into the reading. Halfway through the reading, an elderly juror, who sits in the front row and enters each day leaning on a cane, began to doze off, his head bobbing against his chest.
The testimony they reheard Wednesday is some of the most important of the case. Constand testified that Cosby offered her three “friends” to help relax, saying the pills were an herbal medication. (Cosby has told police investigators that he gave Constand the allergy medication Benadryl.) Twenty to 30 minutes later, she said, her mouth got “cottony,” and her legs turned “rubbery,” leaving her unable fend off Crosby’s advances.
Constand was challenged by Angela Agrusa, one of Cosby’s attorneys. Agrusa pressed Constand about her inconsistent statements to police: She first said the assault took place at Cosby’s house after a dinner at a restaurant with some high school students in March 2004. Later, she said the incident happened when she went to Cosby’s house alone in January 2004. Agrusa also confronted Constand about her claim that she put the pills under tongue — the same as a previous accuser who testified earlier. Under questioning, Constant acknowledged that she was telling that detail for the first time, and hadn’t said anything about placing a pill under her tongue to police.
After the jury left the room, Agrusa tried to get O’Neill’s attention to ask him a question. He turned and addressed the attorney as “Miss Constand,” the name of Cosby’s accuser.
There was an awkward pause. Then Agrusa called back: “It’s Miss Agrusa.”
Later, the panel again wanted more. The jurors asked to rehear the testimony of a police detective who interviewed Cosby in 2005. But that would have to wait. They were hungry and they wanted to eat earlier than they had the night before, and the judge didn’t want their food to get cold. The hot stromboli they’d ordered was already on the way.