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Judge Declares Mistrial in Bill Cosby Case

The Wall Street Journal. logoThe Wall Street Journal. 2017-06-17
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(Provided by Newsy)

A judge declared a mistrial in the Bill Cosby sexual-assault trial Saturday morning after a jury outside Philadelphia failed to reach a verdict in the case on the sixth day of deliberations.

The jury of seven men and five women, who had been selected in Pittsburgh and bused 300 miles to Montgomery County Court in Norristown, Pa., to hear the case, told Judge Steven O’Neill that they were hopelessly deadlocked.

The outcome was a victory for the entertainer and his legal team, though it appeared it could prove temporary as Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said he intends to retry the case.

Mr. Steele said he was disappointed in the outcome but remained confident in the strength of the prosecution’s case.

“This is a case where the victim and the community are entitled to a verdict, and we’re going to work very hard to get to that,” Mr. Steele said. “We’re going to retry the case.”

Mr. Steele said the judge indicated in court that he was looking to put the case on within the next 120 days, but said prosecutors have a year to do so.

© tracie van auken/European Pressphoto Agency

After the ruling, Mr. Cosby stood on the courthouse steps as a fiery statement by his wife, Camille, was read to reporters by a member of the comedian’s public relations team. In it, Ms. Cosby criticized the judge as “arrogant,” prosecutors as “totally unethical” and the media as “blatantly vicious.”

“I am grateful to any of the jurors who tenaciously fought to review the evidence, which is the rightful way to make a sound decision,” Ms. Cosby said in the statement.

Andrew Wyatt, a longtime spokesman for Mr. Cosby, also made a brief defiant statement. “Mr. Cosby’s power is back,” he said. “The jurors used their power to speak. The legacy didn’t go anywhere. It has been restored.”

Mr. Cosby, 79 years old, had faced three counts of indecent aggravated assault and up to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors have alleged that he drugged and molested Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, at his home in 2004.

Mr. Cosby has maintained his innocence and said he had a romantic relationship with Ms. Constand.

Following Saturday’s mistrial, several decisions that shaped the trial loomed large. One was the judge’s pretrial ruling allowing the prosecution to call only one other woman besides Ms. Constand to testify that she had also been drugged and assaulted by Mr. Cosby.

Prosecutors had sought to have a total of 13 women besides Ms. Constand testify to try to establish a pattern of prior bad acts.

Several legal experts also said it was wise for Mr. Cosby not to take the stand in his own defense because that could have allowed prosecutors to discuss the accusations made against Mr. Cosby by roughly 50 women over the past several years.

“The major victory the Cosby team won was limiting the prosecution to only one other woman,” said Wes Oliver, a law professor at Duquesne University. “If he had testified, one way or another, the cross-examination would have alerted the jury to the elephant that the defense did such a good job of keeping out of the courtroom–the 50 other women,” he said.

Mr. Cosby has denied the assault allegations made in all cases by other women. In most cases, the statute of limitations related to those claims has expired.

Mr. Cosby still faces about 10 civil lawsuits filed by other accusers, most of whom allege he defamed them after they came forward to claim that he had sexually assaulted them years earlier. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The 12-member jury was selected in Pittsburgh and bused to the trial at the Montgomery County Court in Norristown, Pa., after Mr. Cosby’s lawyers argued that he couldn’t get a fair hearing in the Philadelphia area.

The trial drew reporters from more than 100 media outlets and from several countries. But it became less of a spectacle than many expected, as the national attention was riveted to other events, including the testimony of former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey earlier this month and the shooting at a Republican congressmen’s baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday.

On Friday, a day before the judge declared a mistrial, Mr. Cosby took to Twitter to thank his supporters. “Thank you to all of my fans and supporters–here in Norristown and worldwide,” the message read.

Write to Kris Maher at kris.maher@wsj.com

Also see: Bill Cosby: From icon to accused

Bill Cosby: From icon to accused
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