NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Bill Cosby’s lawyer repeatedly demanded a mistrial in his sex assault trial as five days of deliberations on the fate of the man once known as America’s Dad pushed into Father’s Day weekend, but the judge said there was no precedent to shut down the jury’s talks.
“I have no authority to do this,” Judge Steven O’Neill said in the 52nd hour of deliberations on Friday night. “I’m sorry it’s causing everyone frustration.”
Cosby lawyer Brian McMonagle fired back that jurors might be under the assumption they have to deliberate until “the cows come home.” They will resume deliberations Saturday morning.
O’Neill grew testy on the bench as he questioned McMonagle’s requests to end the trial without a verdict. The jury might be working toward an acquittal, the judge said.
“You don’t know why they were deadlocked. Everyone is assuming one way or another,” said O’Neill.
As jurors left for the night, O’Neill praised their “hard work, dedication and fidelity to your oath.” The jury, from the Pittsburgh area, has been sequestered for two weeks about 300 miles from home.
The 79-year-old Cosby is accused of drugging and molesting a Temple University employee in 2004 at his home near Philadelphia. As deliberations wore on, Cosby thanked his fans and supporters — first in a tweet, then in brief comments as he left the courthouse Friday night.
“I just want to wish all of the fathers a happy Father’s Day,” Cosby said. “And I want to thank the jury for their long days. Their honest work, individually. I also want to thank the supporters who have been here. And, please, to the supporters, stay calm. Do not argue with people. Just keep up the great support. Thank you.”
A conviction could send Cosby to prison for the rest of his life, but the case has already helped demolish Cosby’s nice-guy image, cultivated during his eight-year run as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” the top-rated 1980s and ’90s sitcom.
Dozens of women have come forward to say he drugged and assaulted them, but this was the only case to result in criminal charges.
On Friday, the jury asked to review multiple pieces of evidence, including Cosby’s decade-old deposition testimony about quaaludes.
Cosby, who gave the deposition as part of Constand’s lawsuit against him, said he got seven prescriptions for the powerful sedative in the 1970s for the purpose of giving them to women with whom he wanted to have sex.
The testimony is relevant because Cosby is charged with giving pills to Constand, former director of operations for the Temple women’s basketball team, to incapacitate her before their sexual encounter. He has said it was Benadryl, a cold and allergy medicine. Prosecutors have suggested he gave her something stronger, possibly quaaludes.
Jurors also asked for, and received, a definition of reasonable doubt, the threshold that prosecutors must cross to win a conviction, and reviewed testimony from Constand and her mother about phone conversations they had with Cosby after the encounter. According to the testimony, Cosby called himself a “sick man” but refused to identify the pills he gave to Constand.
Cosby’s lawyers have said he and Constand were lovers and that the encounter was consensual.
McMonagle objected in court to the panel’s repeated requests to review testimony, saying it suggested some jurors were trying to coerce other jurors in an attempt to bring an end to the deadlock.
The judge said he saw no evidence of coercion or trouble in the deliberating room after the jurors reported their impasse on Thursday and he instructed them to keep trying for a verdict.
“There’s a misperception that there’s a time limit,” he said.
Jurors got the case on Monday. They must come to a unanimous decision to convict or acquit.
If they can’t break the deadlock, O’Neill could declare a hung jury and a mistrial. Then, prosecutors would get four months to decide whether they want to retry Cosby or drop the charges.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.
By Maryclaire Dale and Michael R. Sisak, Associated Press