Bill Cosby case ends in mistrial as jury fails to agree on sexual assault verdict

Harriet Alexander
Bill Cosby and his wife Camille, arriving at court on Monday - REUTERS

The trial of Bill Cosby has ended in a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict, despite 53 hours of deliberations.

The 12-person jury began their deliberations at 5:30pm on Monday, returning to the court on Saturday morning to say, for the second time, that they could not make a decision on any of the three counts.

"Does this indicate that the jury is hopelessly deadlocked?" asked Judge Steve O'Neill.

When they answered yes, Judge O'Neill thanked them for their service, which he described as "probably one of the more courageous, selfless acts that I have ever seen in the justice system."

Prosecutors were asked by the judge whether they would seek a second trial, and they replied yes.

The 79-year-old entertainer was accused of sexual assault, with Andrea Constand, now 44, claiming that he drugged and attacked her at his Philadelphia home in 2004.

Miss Constand hugged her supporters and other Cosby accusers as she left the courtroom on Saturday.

Almost 60 women have come forward to accuse Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them, but owing to the statute of limitations they could not press charges.

Dozens of them have been in court over the past two weeks.

Andrea Constand, who accuses Bill Cosby of sexual assault, arriving at court on June 6 Credit: Reuters

The prosecution opened their case on June 5 pressing home that the case was about  “truth, betrayal, and the inability to consent” – a phrase repeated numerous times by Kristen Feden, the youthful lawyer setting out the prosecution’s arguments.

“This man used his power and his fame and his previously practiced method of placing a young woman in an incapacitated state so he could pleasure himself,” she said.

“The last words she remembers were these will help you relax. And as she drifted in and out of consciousness, her body was used to sexually gratify that man.”

Miss Constand told the court in Norristown, Pennsylvania that she had seen Cosby as a mentor figure and went to his home on that night in January 2004 to seek careers advice.

But Cosby's defence team, led by Brian McMonagle, tried to portray her as an unreliable witness, and someone who in fact was in a romantic relationship with Cosby - who had confessed to being unfaithful to his wife over decades.

Mr McMonagle pointed out that Miss Constand telephoned Cosby dozens of times after the alleged assault. Miss Constand told the jury she was merely returning his calls about the women's basketball squad at Temple University, where she worked as director of team operations and he was a member of the board of trustees.

"This isn't talking to a trustee. This is talking to a lover," he said, addressing the 12-person jury in his summing up.

"Why are we running from the truth of this case - this relationship? Why? I don't understand it."

Cosby's spokesman suggested that the comedian could testify in his defence, but in the end he declined to do so. The defence only brought forward one witness, a detective who had already testified for the prosecution, who spoke for six minutes.

Cosby's wife of 53 years, Camille - in the courtroom on Monday for the first time in the trial - was stoic during the defence argument, sitting in the front row across the aisle from Miss Constand, who didn't react to McMonagle's two-hour closing but smiled at the end of it.

The prosecution spent Monday afternoon summing up their case and insisting that Cosby had condemned himself with his own words.

In 2005 he agreed to give a deposition in a civil case brought by Miss Constand.That testimony - in which he admitted giving her the pills, admitted sexual contact and admitted offering to pay for Miss Constand's university fees - formed the basis of much of their case. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, he has told you what he has done," said Kevin Steele, Montgomery County district attorney, in his closing argument.

"It is about as straightforward as you are ever going to see in a sex crimes case."