NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Down a side hallway in the old courthouse, there’s a small, secluded conference room with a private bathroom.
Each day, as the jury deliberates his fate, Bill Cosby is guided to the clandestine space by his press spokesman and a tiny, curly-haired woman in a floppy hat who for years has been his road manager. Cosby, who will turn 80 next month, calls the hideaway his “dressing room,” according to his small coterie of aides.
The aides always carry in a large pillow — similar to the kind that would be used on a king-size bed. When Cosby is tired, he places the pillow on the table and leans his head on it, telling the small group of aides to “clear the dressing room.”
Cosby is without family members in his courthouse refuge as deliberations drag on. His wife, Camille, appeared at the court only briefly — for defense closing arguments — and his four adult daughters have stayed away.
But on rare occasions, a member of the public has quietly been ushered into the room, where Cosby has found a measure of privacy during eight days of testimony and jury deliberations, which resumed Thursday with jurors still debating charges of aggravated indecent assault.
Last week, a woman who is related to a man who worked at the Playboy Mansion, where Cosby was a frequent guest in the 1970s, was brought in to greet him, said Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s spokesman.
The elderly woman lives in the suburban Burholme neighborhood of Philadelphia, and Cosby had her in stitches in the backroom, telling her stories about a baseball game he played there as a boy. His team lost, the entertainer said, and he jokingly said he has hated the suburb ever since.
Cosby has been relaxed but fatigued, Wyatt said. At times, he has had the small room rolling with laughter with stories about his early days in 1960s Hollywood on the set of the program “I, Spy” when he became the first African American actor to star on a network television show.
While Cosby waits, the jury has been showing signs of wear. Late Wednesday, an elderly juror twice dozed off in the jury box while listening to a rehash of testimony that the deliberating jurors had asked to hear. At the defense table, 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 marathon latter stages of Cosby’s sex assault trial were showing all around.
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 jurors 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 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 listen again to all of testimony by accuser Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball staff member, 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.
Halfway through the court reporter’s 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 pill under her tongue — the same as a previous accuser who testified earlier. Under questioning, Constand 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 the night before, and the judge didn’t want their food to get cold. The hot strombolis they’d ordered were already on the way.