After two days of deliberations, during which they returned verdicts on almost every issue put to them, a jury in a civil trial hearing sex abuse allegations against Bill Cosby has to start from scratch Monday.
At the close of court on Friday, the Los Angeles County jury had reached a consensus as to whether Cosby sexually assaulted plaintiff Judy Huth at the Playboy Mansion in 1975 at the age of 16 and whether Huth was entitled to damages. In all, they had answered eight of nine questions on their sentencing form, all but one addressing whether Cosby had acted in a manner that should require punitive damages.
Judge Craig Karlan, who had promised a juror she could leave after Friday for a prior engagement when she agreed to serve, ruled on the objections of Cosby’s attorneys to accept the verdict on the questions answered by the jury and to read. But he had to change course when deputies from the Santa Monica courthouse showed up and asked him to vacate the courtroom. The courthouse has a required closing time of 4:30 p.m. due to the lack of a budget for MPs overtime
Karlan refused to ask the outgoing juror, who had been selected as foreman, to return on Monday, leaving the jury to start over with an alternate in her place.
“I will not break my word,” Karlan said.
It was a bizarre end to a strange day of jury deliberations. It began with a note to the judge about a “personality issue” between two of the jurors that was making their work difficult.
After calling the courtroom and agreeing that each juror would be heard in the discussions, the jury proceeded but had a constant barrage of questions about issues with their sentencing form for the judge and attorneys to discuss and answer. One question concerned damage calculation.
After lunch, Cosby attorney Jennifer Bonjean filed a court hearing over a photograph taken by a member of Cosby’s team showing a juror standing in close proximity to a Cosby accuser who had been sitting in the audience watching the trial.
Karlan said the photo did not show a conversation taking place and was quick to dismiss the mistrial motion, assuring the juror in question and then the full jury that no one had discussed the case with them.
The accuser, Los Angeles artist Lily Bernard, who filed her own lawsuit against Cosby in New Jersey, denied speaking to a jury.
“I’ve never spoken to a jury,” Bernard told the judge from her seat in the courtroom. “I would never do anything to jeopardize this case. I don’t even look at them.”
Karlan struggled to get through the hurdles and keep the jury deliberating as long as possible, keeping lawyers, reporters and courtroom clerks ready to flee as soon as a verdict was read, but it was ultimately unsuccessful.
The jury began deliberating Thursday morning after a two-week trial.
84-year-old Cosby, who was released from prison when his criminal conviction was overturned in Pennsylvania nearly a year ago, did not attend. He denied any sexual contact with Huth in a clip from a 2015 video testimony shown to the jury. The denial was repeated throughout the trial by his spokesman and attorney.
In contentious closing arguments, Bonjean urged the jury to put behind the public allegations against Cosby and to consider only the evidence from the trial, which, in her opinion, came nowhere near proving Huth’s case.
Huth’s attorney, Nathan Goldberg, told the jury that Cosby must be held accountable for the harm he caused his client.
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