[Updated at 9 p.m.]
The jury in Bill Cosby’s sex assault trial went home for the night Wednesday after failing to reach a verdict on the third day of deliberations.
The panel decided to stop after revisiting a police interview where the comedian acknowledged giving accuser Andrea Constand pills and fondling her.
The jurors will resume Thursday at 9 a.m.
[Updated at 5:50 p.m.]
On the third day of deliberations in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial, jurors appear to remain undecided on whether the comedian is a predator who drugged and molested a Canadian woman — or a hapless old man whose only crime was adultery.
Jurors are now in their 24th hour of deliberating, one of the longest jury deliberations anyone can remember in Montgomery County. Late Wednesday, they returned to the courtroom with their sixth question since they began mulling the case Monday. They asked to reread a Cheltenham Township detective’s testimony, which he gave Monday, but Judge Steven O’Neill instead broke for dinner to give court staff time to transcribe it.
Earlier, they asked to hear part of accuser Andrea Constand’s testimony again, specifically her account of the night in early 2004 that she claims Cosby drugged and groped her. They resumed deliberating after the rereading.
Some jurors appear to be very tired, and an elderly man on the front row appeared to doze off at 3:14 p.m.
In cases where authorities fear a hung jury, the judge can read an Allen charge, or what’s known in Pennsylvania as a Spencer charge. That’s essentially a pep talk the judge gives jurors to nudge them toward a decision. It’s also known as a dynamite charge or hammer charge, because judges can invoke it to jolt jurors out of their uncertainty. Observers say judges generally would order jurors several times to continue deliberating before agreeing they’re “hopelessly deadlocked.”
Cosby, 79, is accused of drugging Constand at his Cheltenham mansion, after the two had dinner. They knew each other because he was a Temple University alumnus, trustee and booster, while she then headed the university’s women’s basketball program.
She testified over two days last week that after she went to his home for dinner, Cosby gave her three blue pills and wine when she complained of stress and insomnia. She said the pills, which the defense team has said were Benadryl, incapacitated her, so that she was helpless to resist when Cosby allegedly fondled her breast and digitally penetrated her vagina. Cosby’s defense team has steadfastly insisted the encounter was the result on an ongoing, consensual, romantic affair.
Constand is among about 60 women who have lodged similar accusations against the elderly entertainer. But she is the only accuser whose claim resulted in criminal charges, because statutes of limitations in other states have made prosecution in the other cases impossible.
Cosby faces years in prison if he’s convicted. He also would have to register as a sex offender, because the crimes he’s charged with – aggravated indecent assault – are considered Megan’s Law offenses, said Kate Delano, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.
As restless reporters and passers-by waited for a verdict Wednesday, the scene outside the Montgomery County Courthouse was at times tedious – and occasionally lively.
Wayne Cadwallader of Norristown dragged an old recliner from his nearby home to the steps of the courthouse for a comfortable perch to observe. Deputies made him move the chair to the sidewalk nearby.
He described himself as a trial “monitor.” But as the hours passed with no sign of a verdict, he declared: “This is boring! I’d rather be fishing.”
The crowds have grown, as anticipation for a verdict mounts. Several of Cosby’s accusers have attended the trial and gathered Wednesday to wait with the media for a verdict.
The media presence, large but manageable during five days of testimony last week, has ballooned as the verdict seems near. Hotel rooms are sold out for miles. Victim advocates grow in number on the courthouse steps, and the Cosby camp’s spin grows louder.
The vision-impaired Cosby arrived most days last week with a string of celebrities on his arm. But Tuesday and Wednesday, he walked just with his publicist Andrew Wyatt and several aides.
Wednesday morning, jurors went straight to the jury room for the resumption of talks.
Wyatt has drawn throngs of cameras with his updates on Cosby’s mood — “very confident,” is a common refrain — and assertions that Cosby isn’t getting a fair shake.
On Friday, he took to the steps to float the idea that Cosby might testify when the defense case opened on Monday. It never happened, but the suggestion was enough to dominate the headlines just as prosecutors were closing their case with Cosby’s damaging deposition testimony.
“Cosby’s team is trying to plant seeds of doubt about this trial with his fans so they don’t abandon him. They’re tugging on the heart strings of nostalgia,” said David La Torre, who ran Penn State’s public relations during the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. “Their parallel strategies make sense, given what’s at stake for Mr. Cosby. He’s fighting for his personal and professional lives.”
On Tuesday, as jury deliberations stretched into a second day without signs of a verdict, Wyatt steered reporters to a former colleague of Constand who said Constand once suggested she would try to set up a famous man to get money. The judge had barred her hearsay testimony from the trial, but Wyatt made sure her statement got out.
“If he’s found guilty, his estate would likely take an enormous financial hit that would devastate his family. That’s why their approach makes practical sense, even if it makes some feel uncomfortable,” La Torre said.