NORRISTOWN, Pa. — The jury in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial informed the judge late Thursday morning that it is deadlocked on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault against the 79-year-old comedian. Judge Steven T. O’Neill ordered the panel to return to the jury room to keep trying.
It was a dramatic turn of events in a trial entering its ninth day, including four days of deliberations. The note explaining the status of the jury’s deliberations was time-stamped 11:06 a.m. — minutes after the jurors passed the 30-hour mark in deliberations that began Monday afternoon and have been marked by complaints of exhaustion. The seven men and five women did not provide reasons for the deadlock, simply saying in a one-sentence note, “We cannot come to a unanimous consensus on any of the counts.”
Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault — each carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years — stemming from a 2004 evening at his Philadelphia-area estate in which he is accused of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a staffer with the Temple University women’s basketball team. The entertainer, who at the time served on the Philadelphia university’s board of trustees, says their intimate encounter was consensual.
The jurors were stonefaced as they entered the courtroom for the reading of their note. One juror, a man who appears to be in his late 20s or early 30s, stepped into the jury box with his arms crossed in apparent frustration.
O’Neill, the Montgomery County (Pa.) judge overseeing the case, read a set of standard charging instructions nudging the jury to keep working. He reminded them that they have a “duty to consult with one another” in hopes of reaching a verdict.
Cosby knit his fingers, working his hands into a ball that he held in front of his mouth as the contents of the note were read in court by O’Neill. Moments after the jury was sent back for another try at reaching a verdict, Cosby walked out of the courtroom on the arm of his publicist. There was a smile on his face.
“Today, we have really seen Mr. Cosby get the justice he was looking for in Montgomery County,” Cosby’s spokesman Andrew Wyatt told reporters outside the courthouse. “These jurors, they have been very judicious, they have taken their time to re-do and retry the case in that deliberation room. And this deadlock shows the not guilty that Mr. Cosby has been trying to bring about.”
Wyatt added a note of caution, saying: “We just hope right now that these jurors are still being treated the way they should be treated — that no one will come in and try to have them change their decision, change heir thoughts, change their minds.”
And the spokesman took a shot at district attorney Kevin Steele, saying that the prosecutor had used the case as “catapult for his ambitions.”
The defendant, legally blind and palming the handle of a pencil-thin wooden cane, entered the courthouse in this working-class Philadelphia suburb each day clasping Wyatt’s arm. Inside the courtroom, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, were several of the 60 women who have accused him of sexual assault since the scandal broke in late 2014. Their assertions span five decades and several had similarities: the accusers said the alleged assaults occurred in conjunction with Cosby’s giving them pills.
The strongest pieces of evidence against Cosby in the case here were his admissions in police interviews and a decade-old deposition that he’d given Benadryl, which he used as a sleep aid, to Constand before their sexual encounter. A toxicologist called to testify by prosecutors said Benadryl had been used by a serial rapist in Great Britain, and that Cosby gave Constand enough of the medication – 1 1/2 pills – to make her drowsy.
His accuser testified that Cosby manipulating her into taking the pills, which left her “frozen” and unable to stop him from touching her breasts and genitals.
But the defense team for Cosby, who did not testify, sought to portray the sexual encounter as romantic. They introduced telephone records that showed Constand calling Cosby twice on Valentine’s Day in 2004 — about a month after the alleged assault. Prosecutors tried to paint the calls as business-related, because Cosby was a Temple trustee and Constand was an employee.
The three criminal counts against the comedian each has a slightly different criteria for a guilty verdict. One required the jury to find that Constand could not “consent,” another that she was “unconscious,” and a third that Cosby “administered an intoxicant.”
The jury seemed to be grappling with the basic framework of the case, sending several notes to the judge asking for large swaths of testimony to be read back to them. During their marathon deliberations, they asked for so much material that it was almost as if they were replaying the entire trial. They seemed to chafe at the long hours imposed by O’Neill, who wanted them to work 12 1/2-hour days until 9:30 p.m.