NORRISTOWN, Pa. — In the austere marble hallways of the Montgomery County courthouse here, a phrase is being repeated over and over: “I’ve run out of clean socks and underwear. I need to go buy some new ones.”
Tucked into one corner, a reporter has given in to fatigue, and spreads out on a padded wooden bench. Strolling past, Bill Cosby’s attorney Brian McMonagle quips, “Can I get you a blanket? A pillow?” He looks like he half means it.
The longest jury deliberations that anyone here can remember — now more than 40 hours — have turned this grand old hulk of a building, erected before the Civil War, into a giant waiting, waiting and waiting-some-more room. Think airport lounge during a snowstorm, but with satellite trucks parked outside.
The energy of participants in the sensational sexual assault trial waxes and wanes. But there was a jolt early Friday when the 12 jurors sent a note asking for the definition of “reasonable doubt.” They also asked to re-hear testimony for a second time that Cosby gave about giving Quaaludes to women with whom he wanted to have sex. Cosby, in a decade-old deposition, testified that he got the Quaaludes from a now-deceased doctor, but never intended to take them himself.
On Friday afternoon, the quagmire of jury deliberations only seemed to deepen as jurors asked for the phone records of Cosby’s main accuser Andrea Constand, as well as the testimony of her mother, Gianna Constand.
Defense attorneys made at least their fifth unsuccessful request for a mistrial, arguing that the jury was trying to replay the entire proceedings. But that request was angrily shot down by the presiding judge, Steven T. O’Neill, who said there is no case law to support declaring a mistrial simply because jury deliberations were taking a long time.
While the jurors scan evidence and debate the merits of the case in an off-limits room, a cast of dozens of reporters stands vigil deep into the night as deliberations of the deadlocked jury stretch into their fifth day Thursday. They share space with roaming heavily armed security officers, attorneys, court officials and an enormous Belgian Malinois police dog named “Bear” because it has the face of grizzly.
The crush of interest in the case has at times tested the patience and resources of the court in this working-class Philadelphia suburb where the Schuylkill River meets meandering Stony Creek. Judge O’Neill has struggled to set a system for sliding jurors out of the courtroom without exposing them to prying eyes in the halls.
The jury deliberates in secret, and information about their leanings is scant. The assembled crowd is left to fill the time with speculation, daydreaming and crosswords.
The tiniest scraps of information about the jury are treated as precious nuggets of gold. An exasperated court information officer has taken to sending out vague notes about what the jury is eating at its evening meal: “They ordered a variety of dinners,” one note from the court information office read.
Late Wednesday night, though, there was less mystery. President Judge Thomas M. DelRicci sauntered through the halls distributing the jury’s leftover cheese pizza to any reporter he encountered. DelRicci, an amiable sort with a deeply tanned face and a jaunty manner, often slips into the courtroom during proceedings. Sometimes, he scoops up placards that designate rows reserved for the media that have slipped to the ground. The court staff calls him “PJ,” an acronym derived from his title.
Arrayed along the walls, six of Cosby’s accusers who are not testifying have become permanent residents of the courthouse crowd during the verdict watch. Lili Bernard, an actress and activist from Los Angeles, arrives each morning dressed all in white and carrying a bouquet of gladiolus. In the early stages of the trial, court security officers let her bring the flowers into the courtroom during testimony, but they changed their policy mid-trial. She props the stems against the wall outside the courtroom door.
On Thursday morning before proceedings began, Bernard and several other accusers were serenading a few reporters as they ascended the staircase, signing long sustained high notes, then collapsing in giggles. Elsewhere clumps of reporters pass the time wondering which actors would play the various courtroom figures in a movie. The children’s television host Fred Rogers of the “Mr. Rogers Show” is invariably selected for the role of Kevin Steele, a lanky district attorney with the carefully parted gray hair.
The key participants in the case — Cosby, 79, and his main accuser, Andrea Constand, 44 — are seldom seen except in the courtroom. But the attorneys saunter through from time-to-time. And periodically through the day, the sound of loud whistling can be heard. The whistles always mean Judge O’Neill is nearby.
The tune was “something from ‘The Leftovers,’” he said one afternoon as he raced down a courtroom corridor.
The case has been at an uneasy standstill since late Thursday morning when the jury announced that it is deadlocked on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault against the comedian. Judge 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 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 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.