Actor Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse on June 5, 2017. in Norristown, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo) (EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ)
Capping more than five days of jury deliberations and years of debate in the court of public opinion, Bill Cosby’s criminal trial ended in mistrial on Saturday, after a Pennsylvania jury failed to reach a verdict on charges that he sexually assaulted Andrea Constand.
Jurors could not reach consensus on any of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault facing Cosby after a six-day trial and more than 52 hours of deliberation in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Steven T. O’Neill declared a mistrial shortly after 10 a.m.
Just after the jury was dismissed, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said prosecutors intend to retry the case. O’Neill said he will aim to set a retrial within the next 120 days.
In a press conference later Saturday morning, Steele said the retrial would be “a do-over,” in terms of the numerous pretrial motions and orders that dictated how the parties could try the case.
Before the trial Cosby moved for a change of venire, which O’Neill granted, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court chose Allegheny County as the location for jury selection. O’Neill also ordered that one other Cosby accuser could testify at trial, when prosecutors sought to bring in 13 women. Cosby also made a number of pretrial motions to have the charges dismissed, which O’Neill denied.
“We anticipate if we have the same judge, which I expect to have in this, that he’s familiar with the legal issues, so that should expedite things,” Steele said of his retrial plans Saturday afternoon.
As they left the courthouse Saturday, Cosby’s lawyers expressed gratitude to the court system as they huddled near the door, avoiding the rain—but not the swarms of reporters seeking their comments.
“This is what happens when juries are stuck,” defense attorney Angela Agrusa said on the courthouse steps, standing with Cosby, fellow defense attorney Brian McMonagle, and Cosby’s spokespeople.
“They deliberated very hard in this case, 52 hours,” McMonagle said. “Justice is real.”
Dolores Troiani, who represents Constand, confirmed Saturday that Constand will cooperate in a retrial.
“She believes that justice will be done,” Troiani said. “I’m not upset by this verdict. These people [of the jury] were so dedicated.”
Troiani also noted part of the trial testimony about the initial 2005 investigation of Constand’s allegations. A Cheltenham police officer testified that law enforcement officers were planning next steps when the investigation was stopped abruptly by then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr.
“If this prosecution had happened at the time it should have happened in 2005, it might have been easier,” Troiani said Saturday.
Speaking from the bench Saturday morning, O’Neill called the jurors’ lengthy attempt at deliberation “one of the most courageous acts, selfless acts that I’ve seen in the justice system.” The jurors were transported to Montgomery County from Allegheny County, about 300 miles away, and have been sequestered since the trial began June 5.
The jurors asked a number of questions throughout their lengthy deliberations, seeking to rehear significant portions of testimony. On Thursday, they informed the court they were deadlocked, unable to reach a consensus on any counts, but O’Neill ordered them to keep trying.
Cosby’s lawyers moved for mistrial several times throughout the deliberations, citing the length of time, but O’Neill said he would not grant his request without citations to case law backing that argument. At one point, defense attorney McMonagle said the jury was trying to rehear the entire trial through their questions.
The trial included eight hours of testimony by Constand, in which she recalled the January 2004 evening when she said Cosby invited her to his home, gave her pills that incapacitated her and then sexually assaulted her. She spent most of her time on the stand defending her account, as Cosby’s lawyers alleged that she changed her story, and that she had a romantic relationship with the comedian at the time of the incident.
The prosecution put on a five-day case, building a narrative based on Constand’s version of events, Cosby’s prior testimony in a civil deposition and the testimony of another woman who said Cosby assaulted her in 1996. The defense, in contrast, rested after presenting just one witness who testified for a few minutes.
Although Cosby did not take the stand, jurors seemed interested in his prior testimony from the civil deposition more than a decade ago. They asked multiple questions during deliberations about Cosby’s statements in his deposition and in law enforcement interviews.
The jurors also asked to rehear testimony from Constand about the alleged assault and her phone calls with Cosby afterward. They also asked about the charge, seeking a definition of “without knowledge or consent,” but the judge said he could not explain charges further. On Friday morning they asked O’Neill to define “reasonable doubt,” and Friday evening they asked to hear more testimony.
Deliberations began at 5:30 p.m. Monday, and continued for four hours that evening before taking a break for the night. They continued for 12-hour days Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. They reconvened Saturday at 9 a.m., and entered the courtroom just after 10 a.m. to confirm that they were hopelessly deadlocked.
Cosby’s prior deposition has been central to the trial, as it moved prosecutors to reopen the case after a federal judge unsealed documents containing portions of his testimony in July 2015. The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office filed the charges in December 2015, just before the 12-year statute of limitations on Constand’s allegations was set to expire.
Since then, the comedian has made numerous attempts to have the charges dismissed, as dozens of women stood by their accusations that Cosby sexually assaulted them too.
The timing of the criminal charges was a recurring issue in the case. Just last week, Cosby’s team filed a motion to dismiss charges due to the statute of limitations on sexual assault cases, arguing that the prosecutors lacked evidence to show the alleged assault took place after December 2003. Late last year the defense lawyers filed a motion to dismiss that argued Cosby was subject to prejudice, bias and delay because the charges were filed so many years after the alleged sexual assault of Constand.
And in January 2016, just after charges were filed, Cosby filed a petition that argued he should never have been charged, pursuant to a nonprosecution promise by former Montgomery County District Attorney Castor. During a two-day hearing, Castor testified that he intended for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office to be bound to his decision not to prosecute Cosby in 2005. But O’Neill ruled against Cosby, allowing the case to continue.
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