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Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Trial Ends In Mistrial

Bill Cosby In Court

The sexual assault trial of comedian Bill Cosby ended in a mistrial today with the jury unable to reach a verdict after six days of deliberation:

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — A Pennsylvania judge declared a mistrial Saturday after a jury was “hopelessly deadlocked” on sexual-assault charges against Bill Cosby, the comic legend whose legacy as a promoter of wholesome values has been tarnished by a years-long sex and drugging scandal.

As the mistrial was declared, Cosby sat at the defense table with his chin held high, a flat, blank look on his face. Across the well of the courtroom, jurors stood one-by-one in the jury box and said, “Yes,” as the judge asked whether each whether they agreed that the jury is “hopelessly deadlocked.”

The jurors answered without hesitation, but several slumped forward in their chairs, elbows on their knees and fingers knit, looks of frustration on their faces.

After the questioning was done, the entertainer sat back in his chair, holding a slender cane that has been with him inside the courtroom each day to his chest. Cosby’s family was not in the courtroom to hear the judge’s decision.

The jury filed out almost within arm’s reach of Andrea Constand, Cosby’s accuser. She stood respectfully, with a strained smile on her face. Afterwards, prosecutor Kevin Steele announced in court that he will retry Cosby.

The courtroom emptied quickly, but the two main players in this 11-day melodrama lingered. Constand, in the brilliantly white lightweight blazer she’d worn on the witness stand, stood along the edge of the courtroom wall. Six accusers who had attended the trial as spectators, some with tears in their eyes, lined up to console her with long, sad hugs. The former professional basketball player’s face was flush, but her eyes were dry.

Across the courtroom, a small entourage of Cosby aides broke into wide smiles and clapped each other on the back. Amid the celebration, the aging comic sat by himself at his regular spot at the defense table. No one from his family was there to share the moment, and the members of his defense team and support staff had turned their attention elsewhere.

Cosby, knowing that he’ll be tried again, looked pensive as he sat tilted forward with his legs spread wide and his eyes cast to the floor. He draped a long finger across his upper lip, and for several minutes was alone with his thoughts. Then, his expression changed. For a split second, a smile crossed his face.

Finally, one of his defense attorneys, Angela Agrusa, spied him sitting there alone, and went over to offer her arm. They walked down the center aisle of the courtroom together, weaving through celebratory Cosby aides, and journalists. But the path was blocked and they had to stop.

Cosby and his attorney paused momentarily.

“You lead the way,” Cosby said to Agrusa.

Outside the courthouse, Cosby’s press spokesman thrust a fist in the air triumphantly as the comedian made his way down a ramp flanked by metal barricades and a leafy hedge in the rain. A handful of supporters chanted, “Let Bill go,” as Cosby was helped into an idling black SUV. Cosby turned for a moment to a crowd in which journalists outnumbered supporters at least 25-to-one. Then he was gone.

The jurors, who had complained of exhaustion, deliberated 52 hours before finally saying they could not reach a verdict on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against the 79-year-old entertainer. But the hung jury does not end Cosby’s legal troubles because he could be retried on the same charges and is still facing lawsuits filed by some of the 60 women who have accused him of sexual assault, rape or sexual harassment.

As deliberations dragged on, signs of discontent in the jury room kept emerging. The jurors, who had been kept working for 12- and 13-hour days by Steven T. O’Neill, the Montgomery County judge overseeing the case, since beginning their cloistered discussions Monday afternoon, asked to go back to the hotel early on Tuesday. The next day they expressed “concerns” to court officials, though the judge did not reveal the substance of their complaints.

Defense attorneys furiously demanded a mistrial many times in the courtroom during the lengthy deliberations, but Judge O’Neill insisted on letting the jury continue its work. Cosby’s press team angered the judge by holding impromptu news conferences on the courthouse steps, fulminating for a mistrial and criticizing the judge for allowing deliberations to stretch longer than anyone could remember in previous cases held in this scruffy Philadelphia suburb.

Late Thursday morning, just after passing the 30-hour mark in deliberations, jurors formally announced for the first time that they were deadlocked in a one-sentence note saying they could not reach a “unanimous consensus” on any of the counts. The judge gave the standard order to keep trying, but they were ultimately unable to break the deadlock. When he first heard about the deadlock, Cosby walked out of the courtroom with a smile on his face.

The jurors gave few hints as to their leanings. But a few, including an elderly man who entered court each day leaning on a cane, showed their fatigue by occasionally nodding off in the jury box. The jury seemed to take an unusually painstaking approach to deliberations, asking to rehear testimony from half of the prosecution witnesses and to look anew at evidence. The requests amounted to something akin to replaying the entire trial. And, by the end, jurors had deliberated for far more hours than the length of testimony, opening statements and closing arguments combined.

While I did not follow the trial closely — the remainder of the linked article from The Washington Post, as well as this one from The New York Times, appear to provide a good summary for those interested — it is apparent from the coverage I did manage to see that the case was closely fought and the odds of conviction were far from certain. For example, on cross-examination, the defense was able to bring to light the fact that Andrea Constand, the alleged victim in the case being prosecuted, kept in contact with Cosby for some time after the alleged assault and even sent him gifts, something that seems inconsistent with the allegations that she was lodging against him now. Additionally, the prosecution failed to convince the Judge presiding over the trial to allow them call a number of witnesses regarding similar incidents in which Cosby allegedly drugged and seduced women before having sex with them. In the end, the Judge only allowed one such witness in addition to the victim to testify on the ground that allowing multiple women to testify about essentially similar events, many of which occurred so long ago that the applicable statute of limitations had long ago expired, would be unduly prejudicial to the defendant, who of course is only on trial for the allegations made by one witness. The defense, meanwhile, surprised many by calling only one witness before resting its case, but at that time it was clear that

In any case, by this morning it was apparent that a mistrial would be the most likely result in this case. The jury had already informed the Judge that they were deadlocked earlier this week, and he responded by re-reading the instructions and telling them to resume deliberations with the goal of reaching a verdict one way or the other. By the time they convened this morning, the jury had been deliberating for longer than the trial itself and it seemed clear that either they would reach a verdict soon or there would be a mistrial. The prosecution has already announced that they intend to pursue a second trial against Cosby, but it seems likely that such a trial would either end in the same result absent some change in the evidentiary rulings that were made prior to the first trial that allows the prosecution to bring in more “prior bad acts” evidence in front of the jury. That kind of development, though, would likely mean years of appeals and the prospect that the entire process could last longer than Cosby himself is alive.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    These cases are always he said / she said, and devolve IMO to which party the jury likes better.

    It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. They’ve undermined her credibility enough to skew this in his favor.

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  2. Gustopher says:

    For example, on cross-examination, the defense was able to bring to light the fact that Valerie Constandt, the alleged victim in the case being prosecuted, kept in contact with Cosby for some time after the alleged assault and even sent him gifts, something that seems inconsistent with the allegations that she was lodging against him now.

    I’m not particularly well informed on the subject, but my understanding is that this is far more common than one would initially expect in cases of sexual assault by someone you know. The victim wants to normalize the situation, so they can tell themselves that it didn’t really happen, and that they aren’t really a victim and that they didn’t do anything wrong trusting that person.

    It’s just one of those lies people have to tell themselves to continue to function as they process it. “I wasn’t raped, it was just bad sex that in retrospect was a mistake, but not a terrible, life-altering mistake just an oops-that-was-awkward mistake. It couldn’t have been rape, if we have this nice relationship… I’m not a victim, I send him Christmas cards!”

    It’s like how Donald Trump believes that he is smart, that he is popular, that he has accomplished a great deal, that he is being treated unfairly, and that people are laughing with him not at him — to the outside observer it seems transparently false, but it helps him get up in the morning with the energy to send out angry tweets.

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    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  3. Lit3Bolt says:

    For example, on cross-examination, the defense was able to bring to light the fact that Andrea Constand, the alleged victim in the case being prosecuted, kept in contact with Cosby for some time after the alleged assault and even sent him gifts, something that seems inconsistent with the allegations that she was lodging against him now.

    Assumptions like this are easy to make since most men are not sexually assaulted by world-famous celebrities.

    This is like assuming a woman who takes time to report domestic abuse must be a conniving, man-hating shrew since she celebrated Christmas and birthdays with her abuser. Inconsistent behavior! The defense rests.

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  4. al-Ameda says:

    After watching the trial re-cap coverage and post-mortems I come away with two observations:

    (1) Costand’s case was damaged by the the defense cross-examination, and

    (2) This was a (once beloved) celebrity on trial, and such celebrities not only avail themselves of the best legal counsel money can buy, and celebrities often get the benefit of any doubt when it comes to jury deliberations.

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  5. CSK says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Very true.

    Mrs. Cosby released a statement in which she thanked all those who believed in her husband’s innocence. Well, she’s standing by her man, despite the fact that he cheerfully admitted to being a serial adulterer.

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  6. MBunge says:

    1. Bill Clinton. Just Bill Clinton.

    2. It’s psychologically understandable why a woman who has been assaulted might behave the way Cosby’s accuser did…but how else do you evaluate someone’s testimony than by comparing it with their behavior?

    3. And since some people apparently need to be reminded, Donald Trump is richer, more successful, more famous, more powerful, more accomplished and more historically significant than most of his critics put together. He’s even more popular than many of his critics, who couldn’t get themselves elected dog-catcher. And he’s the one lying to himself in the mirror every morning?

    Mike

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    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  7. James Pearce says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    Assumptions like this are easy to make since most men are not sexually assaulted by world-famous celebrities.

    Here’s another assumption for you: Most women aren’t either.

    @MBunge:

    Donald Trump is richer

    He also has the smallest hands.

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  8. Gustopher says:

    @MBunge:

    1. Bill Clinton. Just Bill Clinton.

    We all know Bill Clinton has had numerous affairs and dalliances. The only well documented ones, however, are all consensual. You might not like that Monica Lewinsky was very young, but Bill Clinton sure did! And she was of legal age to make bad decisions for herself.

    The accusations of rape are from women who have been in the fever swamps of the far right for years, supported and encouraged by people who have a vested interest in demonizing Bill Clinton. Are they truthful ladies who have damaged their reputation and credibility by hanging out with right wing scum, or are they women who regret having sex with Bill Clinton and have been coached and prodded to believe that it was rape? I have no idea.

    2. It’s psychologically understandable why a woman who has been assaulted might behave the way Cosby’s accuser did…but how else do you evaluate someone’s testimony than by comparing it with their behavior?

    Part of the prosecutor’s job is to put the victim’s behavior into context, so the jury can make that determination. I didn’t follow the trial at all, so I don’t know if the prosecutor did that here — I was just commenting on Doug’s statement.

    3. And since some people apparently need to be reminded, Donald Trump is richer, more successful, more famous, more powerful, more accomplished and more historically significant than most of his critics put together. He’s even more popular than many of his critics, who couldn’t get themselves elected dog-catcher. And he’s the one lying to himself in the mirror every morning?

    I don’t know if Trump lies to himself in the mirror every morning, but he does lie to the world every morning on Twitter…

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  9. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    Christ, man, get help.

    Is there a list we could get of words which trigger these fits, or is your answer to everything just Bill Clinton?

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  10. Matt says:

    @MBunge:

    And since some people apparently need to be reminded, Donald Trump is richer, more successful, more famous, more powerful, more accomplished and more historically significant than most of his critics put together.

    Only because his daddy left him a huge pile of money and contacts…

    Trump would be richer today if he had just put his money in index funds. As a bonus Trump wouldn’t of needed to launder money for the Russian oligarchs to keep afloat…

    Now if Trump had climbed his way up from nothing then I’d be impressed.

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  11. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:

    Wow.

    ReplyReply

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  12. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: Ah speaking of being impressed..

    While I might argue with michael occasionally (usually gun related) I still find his story to be far more impressive than Trump’s…

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Guarneri says:

    “This was a (once beloved) celebrity on trial, and such celebrities not only avail themselves of the best legal counsel money can buy, and celebrities often get the benefit of any doubt when it comes to jury deliberations.”

    Like OJ.

    ReplyReply

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  14. wr says:

    @CSK: “Well, she’s standing by her man, despite the fact that he cheerfully admitted to being a serial adulterer.”

    This much she has known for decades, along with everyone in the entertainment industry. Did she know about the drug stuff? We will never know…

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  15. Mr Bluster says:

    @MBunge:.. And since some people apparently need to be reminded,..

    President Pud is a self confessed sexual molester of women.

    ReplyReply

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