Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Trial: Judge Declares Mistrial
The judge in the closely watched Bill Cosby sexual assault case declared a mistrial after the jury remained “hopelessly deadlocked” on the sixth day of deliberations. Immediately after the judge’s decision, prosecutors announced they would retry the case within four months.
The jury, comprised of seven men and five women, were unable to come to an unanimous verdict following a week-long trial.
Following the judge’s ruling and the prosecutor’s decision to retry the comedian, Cosby’s wife Camille said in a statement through her spokesperson, “”How do I describe the District Attorney? Heinously and exploitively ambitious. How do I describe the judge? Overtly and arrogantly collaborating with the District Attorney. How do I describe the counsels for the accusers? Totally unethical. How do I describe many, but not all, general media? Blatantly vicious entities that continually disseminated intentional omissions of truths for the primary purpose of greedily selling sensationalism at the expense of a human life.”
Those in the Montgomery County Courthouse heard arguments from both sides of the case through Monday, with the prosecution calling a total of 12 witnesses to the stand, including Andrea Constand, who accused the veteran TV actor of drugging and sexually assaulting her at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. The defense called upon just one witness, a local detective.
In her testimony, Constand accused Cosby of giving her three blue pills and digitally penetrating her against her will while she was paralyzed and half-conscious in 2014. She spent nearly seven hours on the stand over the course of two days telling her side of the story for the first time.
“These will help you relax,” she alleged Cosby told her. “Put ’em down, they’re your friends. They’ll take the edge off.” Constand added that when she asked the actor whether the pills were herbal supplements, he nodded and handed her a glass of water with which to swallow them. Just before she lost consciousness, Constand testified, “I began to slur my words, and I also told Mr. Cosby that I had trouble seeing him, that I could see two of him.”
Constand also noted that when she came to, she felt “humiliated” and “confused.” She left the house. Some time later, she testified, she returned to the house and demanded to know what was in the pills. “Mr. Cosby looked at me and said, ‘I thought you had an orgasm, didn’t you?’ And I said, ‘I did not. I just want to know what you gave me.'” When Cosby gave her no answer, she left.
Following the mistrial, Costand’s reps said in a statement, “From the moment she revealed what had happened to her, Andrea sought to have this matter addressed in the criminal justice system. Given the manner in which she was dismissed by the previous district attorney, she had no option but to file a civil suit. We are confident that these proceedings have given a voice to the many victims who felt powerless and silenced. We commend those prosecutors who raised awareness that one of the hallmarks of drug related sexual assaults is the affect the drug has on the victim’s memory and ability to recall and were nonetheless willing to present this evidence to the jury.”
Among the other witnesses that the prosecution called upon was fellow accuser Kelly Johnson, who has similarly accused Cosby of sexual assault after meeting him while working for the William Morris Agency in 1996.
The defense brought Detective Richard Schaffer, their sole witness, to the stand on Monday. Schaffer led the 2005 investigation into the allegations that Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted Constand. He underwent only several minutes of questioning before stepping down. Among the questions he was asked was whether he was aware that Cosby had a vision problem in 2005. (Judge Steven O’Neill shot down the defense’s bid to call a second witness, a woman who worked with Constand at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University.)
Cosby’s lead defense attorney, Brian McMonagle, posited Cosby as a man who had been unfaithful to his wife, but had not committed any criminal act, in his closing statements Monday. According to Reuters, McMonagle argued that Constand and Cosby had a romantic relationship for more than a year, and pointed out that infidelity was not a crime punishable by law.
“Ms. Constand was untruthful time and time and time again,” he said, according to NBC News, pointing to contradictions in three statements she made to police. In one statement, she had told police that she had never been alone with Cosby prior to the incident, a claim she called a “mistake” while on the stand.
“It’s not a fib. It’s not a mistake,” McMonagle argued. “It’s a stone-cold lie.”
Cosby’s wife of more than 50 years, Camille, was in the courtroom Monday. The defense frequently emphasized Camille’s presence in the courtroom to solidify the infidelity narrative to the jury, with McMonagle directly apologizing to Camille at one point as he reviewed a decade-old testimony in which her husband talked about “petting” with Constand.
“When you dance outside your marriage, you have to pay the band,” McMonagle said, calling attention to Cosby’s infidelities. “And you danced,” he said directly to his client. “And she deserved better!”
Camille left in the afternoon and did not return. Cosby’s four daughters did not appear in court.
The jury had three questions while deliberating the case. First, they asked the judge twice to repeat parts of Cosby’s statements to the authorities and requested the court to define the phrase “without her knowledge” in one of the three charges against him. One particular phrase the jury asked to clarify was the context under which Cosby described the three pills he gave Constand as “little friends.” They also asked to hear Cosby’s deposition testimony again in which he described how he first met Constand.
Constand’s trial marks the first and only criminal case to arise from the more than 50 women who have accused him of sexual assault, because most of their claims were made beyond the statue of limitations for criminal charges.