Bill Cosby Trial: What to Watch for Next

Bill Cosby
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Updated

After the jurors in the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial informed the judge that they were deadlocked, and the judge sent them back for more deliberation, the entertainer’s spokesman Andrew Wyatt declared it a win.

“Today we have really seen Mr. Cosby get the justice he was looking for,” he told reporters.

But the case is not over, even if the jury deadlock is a signal of sharp disagreement over Cosby’s guilt or innocence. He is facing three aggravated indecent assault charges involving accuser Andrea Constand. If convicted, he could be sentenced up to 10 years on each count.

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Judge Steven O’Neill denied a defense request for a mistrial, saying that it was “inappropriate at this time.”

So what happens next? Here’s a guide to the possible scenarios:

Deadlock. It’s tricky to guess how much more time the jury will give itself before folding. It is not unheard of for a jury to go back to deliberating and reach a verdict. They could also deadlock on one or more of the counts and not on the others, although they did not indicate that they had reached a verdict on any of the counts on Thursday.

“I don’t think the fact that they announced a deadlock can give us any idea of what is going to happen,” said Steven Fairlie, a criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania who has been tracking the case. He said that the Cosby spokesman’s suggestion that this was a victory is mere “spin.”

But he said that the word of the deadlock suggests a degree of tension in the jury room.

He noted that judges instruct jurors to return to deliberations with the phrasing, “as long as it’s not going to do violence to their conscience or their individual opinions.” That’s a sign of just how contentious they can get.

“We don’t know how much longer the jury will deliberate,” Fairlie said. “I think when a block of jurors say, ‘I will never change my mind,’ you know it is done.” That would mean that they are “hopelessly deadlocked.”

So if that happens, then it would be a mistrial. That hasn’t happened yet.

Priya Sopori, partner at Greenberg Glusker, also doubts that the jury will come to a verdict.

“In my experience, sending them back to deliberate will not do any good,” she says, adding that she predicts that there will be a hung jury.

She noted that one of the questions that the jury had was about the third count, alleging that Cosby gave Constand a drug without her knowledge “for the purpose of preventing resistance.” The jury asked for the definition of “without her knowledge.” He declined to elaborate.

“They are probably grappling with serious issues of consent in the taking of the drugs, and the understanding that the drugs would lead to a romantic interlude,” Sopori said.

Steve Vinick, partner at Joseph, Greenwald and Laake, said that “it looks like they are going to be a potential mistrial. They have already been deliberating for three days. If they are hopelessly deadlocked, I don’t think anything else is going to change that.”

Mistrial. A hung jury almost always means that the judge declares a mistrial.

“A mistrial costs us all,” Fairlie said. “It is an ungodly amount of money for the taxpayers.”

It’s unclear just how much the Cosby case has cost so far, but the trial is especially expensive because the jurors were selected in Allegheny County, about six hours away, and transported to Montgomery County, where they sequestered, among other factors. Cosby is also bearing huge expenses, but he appears to have the resources to bear them.

It’s not much of a surprise that the judge would send the jurors back after the first time they declared their deadlock. The judge could send them back to deliberate multiple times, even for days, before ultimately throwing in the towel and declaring a mistrial.

Cosby’s team already is talking as if such a scenario would be a victory.

Fairlie said that he did not think that the defense cross-examination of Constand went all that well, so “a mistrial gives you a second bite at the apple.” The defense called just one witness, with six minutes of testimony, so they could have the advantage in a second trial of knowing the prosecution’s case.

New trial. Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele will have to decide whether to pursue a new trial.

Sopori noted that Steele ran on the possibility of prosecuting Cosby during his 2015 election campaign, so there is some expectation that he would pursue another trial should the judge declare a mistrial.

She does see some advantages for the prosecution in this scenario, as “the government can prepare witnesses knowing the manner in which they will be cross-examined.”

Another factor is how the jury breaks down in a deadlock. If it is a 6-6 split, that would be an indication of how torn jurors are on the case and would raise doubts about the ability of the prosecution to get a guilty verdict in another trial. But Fairlie still doesn’t expect that Steele would forgo another trial, given what he said during his 2015 campaign.

Vinick also believes that the prosecution would pursue a new trial, even as he finds it “incredible that the defense put up one witness yet they are still deadlocked.”

“I think that speaks to the fact that the prosecution case was not that strong,” he said.

Verdict. Of course, the jury could reach a verdict on one or more of the counts. If found guilty on all, Cosby would likely appeal. If not guilty on all, the criminal case is over. Cosby still faces a raft of civil litigation.

Vinick said that the reason that the Cosby team would still consider a deadlock a victory is that “he is literally at the executioner’s door in the press. So many women have come forward.” Despite that negative publicity, so far the jury has been unable to reach a verdict.

“To them it is a victory because they overcame the odds,” he said.

Even if there is a deadlock, Sopori said that the trial will have focused public attention on the issue of consent.

“I believe that the issue of legal consent has been around for a long time, but we are finally catching up to what that translates to in a real life,” she said.

 

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  1. denise says:

    I think this is a waste of taxpayers money cause for one when women​ like these be saying these men have raped or did things to them thy didn’t won’t I think it a joke cause thy know thy have money and that’s a good way for them to get some I don’t feel like Mr. Cosby did anything to harm them women I think thy know if they get them men by thy self with no around thy can say anything to get them in trouble so Mr. Cosby I grew up on looking at your show and I can’t see it all them girls u had around u why didn’t u try one of them that’s why I don’t believe it..but God knows best and I will keep u and your family in prayer may God bless u bill Cosby I’m always a fan.

  2. Cynthia Lazos says:

    NOT GUILTY. IN THE AGE OF DRUG USE NOT ONE OF THESE WOMEN CAN SAY THEY HAD NO NOWLEDGE OF DRUG USE. THATS WHY THEY WENT OUT “TO PLAY”! HE IS NOT GUILTY. IF HE IS GUILTY IN ANYONES EYES. HE IS NOT THE ONLY ONE, FOR SURE. HE IS A GOOD MAN. HE IS BEING SLANDERED. SOME ONE KNOWS THE TRUTH, THEY NEED TO SPEAK UP FOR MR. COSBY. BILL COSBY I AM STILL A FAN. HOPE EVERYTHING TURNS OUT GOOD FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.

  3. Sam says:

    Consent???? Are you kidding people don’t know what consent means.????
    It means don’t talk to men. Women have been exploited by the scam internet. Women will never be equal.
    Men have only one use for women their own selfish gratification.
    They are not your friends. This woman in the trial had no business associating with an older married famous celebrity.
    There were plenty of professional advisors at her school at the time she claims she needed guidance. It a term we all know means she used that as am excuse to exploit his celebrity for her own selfishness. And like another
    commenter mentioned his fame caused him to have hundreds of these people pestering him

  4. D says:

    Sentence Him to a Weekend with Gloria Allred

  5. Eunice Parker says:

    This case has never played by ALL the rules. Just those that points a finger at Mr. Cosby and NEVER at the accusers, WITH NO EVIDENCE. The judge would not admit a witness due to HEAR SAY??? The witness had a sworn statement? This judge is working for the prosecutor who has planned to convict Mr. Cosby for his damn campaign promise. TALK ABOUT OBSTRUCTIONN OFJUSTICE?????

  6. scoshrad says:

    What’s most significant about the “Cosby’s a Serial Rapist!” scenario is that it’s the first time the media’s looked directly to social media for cues on how to play a story. The public doesn’t even know why Cosby’s in the courtroom, except that a media campaign put him there. When asked why he made the decision to go forward with a trial with zero legal basis for doing so, the judge said, “I don’t have to give my reasons.” No media comment on that.

    Do Cosby’s accusers want to ensure that, if your child is sexually assaulted, he or she will take the vital, necessary steps to ensure justice? No, because that education won’t put a dime in their pockets, or further the media’s agenda, which is to sell us stories, nothing more. The first “I have a story ONLY” accuser who pushes the message, “DON’T LET YOURSELF WIND UP IN MY SHOES” will have my respect. But Cosby’s accusers care nothing about Sexual Assault Prevention, nor does the media that pampers them for profit, and nor does the fame-mad attorney whose headline-grabbing demand that Cosby put up $100,000,000 for his “victims” played no part (we’re to believe) in prompting the slew of stories that followed, without a single instance of fact-checking. This doesn’t even rate as journalism.

    We’re to believe that Cosby had more power than Dracula over not only his “victims”, but over literally everyone in his midst, for over four decades. That’s entertainment, for some people. But your kids are getting sexually assaulted, and not grasping the Vital Importance of Using the Tools at Their Disposal to Obtain Justice (Police Reports, Rape Kits: things that hold weight in the courtroom – IF the victim decides to press charges) only because you love your daily dirt, and the media will stoop to any level to please you.

    (Not looking at replies. Thanks for reading my post.)

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