NORRISTOWN, Pa. – The jury in the sexual assault retrial of Bill Cosby spent more than eight hours deliberating the charges against the entertainer on Wednesday – but broke for the night without reaching a verdict in the first celebrity trial to unfold in the heated atmosphere of the #MeToo movement.
The panel of seven men and five women is due back Thursday morning to resume deliberations at the courthouse in suburban Philadelphia.
The jury began considering the case on Wednesday morning, the 13th day of the retrial, after Montgomery County Court Judge Steven T. O’Neill instructed the panel on the law.
Cosby, now 80, is charged with drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, who was operations manager of the women’s basketball team at Temple University, at his home outside Philadelphia back in January 2004. He contends the sexual contact was consensual.
Constand testified that she became friendly with Cosby, who was a popular alum and major supporter of the university, and viewed him as a mentor.
She said when she went to his home in Montgomery County one night in early 2004 to discuss some career alternatives, he offered her three blue pills to help her relax. She said she took the pills because she trusted Cosby and believed they were some kind of an herbal relaxant, but soon became incapacitated. Then, she said, she felt his fingers inside of her, but “couldn’t fight him off.”
Late Wednesday, jurors asked for a re-reading of Cosby’s deposition in the civil lawsuit brought against him by Constand, who received a settlement of nearly $3.4 million.
In the deposition, Cosby describes the moves he put on Constand on the night in question. He said Constand had complained of feeling stressed so he gave her three half pills of Benedryl, telling her, “I have three friends for you to make you relax.” He said they then engaged in a “necking session” on the sofa during which he digitally penetrated her but that Constand raised no objections.
In the deposition, Cosby also acknowledged that many years before, he used to give quaaludes to women with whom he wanted to have sex.
The jury also asked to re-hear the testimony of key defense witness Marguerite Jackson, who testified that Constand told her in February 2004 that she could make up a claim that she had been sexually assaulted by a well-known person in order to get a financial settlement. The questions came on a day that was otherwise marked by waiting.
Journalists from major networks and local news outlets camped out and worked on news articles while waiting for any word of a verdict or question. Cosby hung out in private with his publicity team. Constand, now a massage therapist living in Canada, also remained nearby and was in the courtroom for two of the jury questions.
Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s publicist, said that Cosby was relaxed, and confident that the jury will find him not guilty of all charges. “His spirits are high,” said Wyatt.
Cosby, who was once known as “America’s Dad” for his role as the lovable Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Cosby’s first trial ended last June when a different jury deadlocked on all charges after more than 50 hours of deliberations. He is now facing a jury that is slightly younger over all. The jury is composed of seven men and five women, with two African-Americans.
Constand is one of dozens of women who have accused Cosby of drugging and then assaulting them — but she is the only one whose allegation became the focus of a criminal case. The charges against Cosby were filed on Dec. 30, 2015 – just days before the 12-year statute of limitations was due to expire.
The retrial has been marked by heated discord between the prosecution and the defense, with tensions rising in the courtroom and in closed-door discussions with the judge about legal issues in the case. Cosby’s legal team is led by veteran defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau, who successfully defended Michael Jackson against child molestation charges in 2005.
The once-revered entertainer is the only major celebrity to face a jury amid the growing cultural awareness of the problem of sexual assault. In less than a year, dozens of rich and powerful men have been accused of sexual harassment or assault as more women have decided to publicly address the issue.