US jury locked in Cosby trial deliberations

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby could spend the rest of his life behind bars if convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand in 2004
AFP

Norristown (United States) (AFP) – A US jury was locked in deliberations Wednesday in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial, tasked with deciding whether the disgraced megastar drugged and molested a young woman at his home 14 years ago.

The frail 80-year-old could spend the rest of his life behind bars if convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, then a Temple University employee, in 2004.

The sequestered Pennsylvania jury of seven men and five women crossed the seven-hour point in deliberations, recalling the judge and lawyers to court three times for questions and two further clarifications.

They asked for the legal definition of consent, only to be told that there wasn’t one, and for portions of Cosby’s 2006 deposition, and the entire testimony of the star defense witness, to be re-read.

After Judge Steven O’Neill announced a hot dinner had been ordered for the jury, the panel decided to eat before listening again to the testimony in Norristown, a depressed suburb of Philadelphia.

They have already heard 12 days of testimony from around two dozen witnesses in what is the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era that has seen a litany of powerful men lose their jobs over sexual misconduct accusations.

The defense mounted an aggressive case, portraying their multi-millionaire client as a misguided married man hoodwinked into a $3.38 million settlement by a con artist and pathological liar.

The prosecution painted Cosby as the real “con,” who exploited his fame as “America’s Dad” to betray women’s trust by drugging and sexually assaulting them against their will.

The case has forever tarnished the legacy of the actor once adored by millions for his role as lovable father and obstetrician Cliff Huxtable on the 1984-92 hit television series “The Cosby Show.”

Cosby declined, again, to testify in court. His first trial ended in a hung jury in June with the sequestered panel hopelessly deadlocked after six days of testimony and 52 hours of deliberations.

This time the jury has much more testimony to consider.

– ‘Inability to consent’ –

The once pioneering African American actor claims he gave Constand, who is now a massage therapist in Toronto, an over-the-counter antihistamine to relieve stress and that relations were consensual.

Constand, who at the time was director of operations for women’s basketball at Temple, says she passed out after Cosby gave her three blue pills, waking to find him penetrating her vagina with his fingers and making her masturbate his penis.

“I’m confident that you will come back and tell that man that what he did to Andrea Constand that night is against the law,” prosecutor Kristen Feden told jurors on Tuesday.

Cosby’s high-powered team urged the jury to acquit the actor on all counts and save a “distinguished” elderly man from “absolute ruin.”

“You’re dealing with a pathological liar, members of the jury, you are,” said defense attorney Tom Mesereau.

Their star witness, former Temple University employee Margo Jackson, claimed that Constand spoke of wanting to set up a celebrity for cash.

The prosecution brought five other accusers to testify that Cosby was a serial predator, first winning their trust then deliberately drugging them to make them incapable of resisting.

Prosecutors initially declined to press charges and Constand received $3.38 million in a civil settlement from Cosby in 2006.

The district attorney reopened the case in 2015, arguing new evidence had come to light, while an avalanche of women came forward publicly to accuse Cosby of around 40 years of assault.

Around 60 women have accused the Emmy winner of being a serial predator, but Constand’s is the only case that happened recently enough to criminally prosecute.

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