One of the highest-profile criminal cases in years ended in a mistrial on Saturday. The jury in the Bill Cosby aggravated indecent assault case was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, as is required. They deliberated for a total of six days, first reaching a deadlock on Thursday. The judge asked them to return to deliberations, but they were ultimately unable to return a verdict.
“This is neither a vindication nor a victory,” stated the judge before praising the jurors for their service and requesting that they refrain from discussing their deliberations. As a result of that request, very little information is available about the vote tally or the nature of their disagreement. The jury was made up of two African-Americans and ten whites, although it is unclear if race affected the deliberations.
Cosby faced three counts of aggravated sexual assault. Each was a felony charge that could have resulted in up to 10 years in prison. The district attorney for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, who brought the case, has vowed to try the case again.
Case against Cosby largely dependent on witness credibility
As you may be aware, dozens of women have accused Cosby of sexual assault in recent years, often with similar facts to those in this case. However, the majority of them took place too long ago, and the statute of limitations has passed.
In some cases, evidence of a defendant’s prior bad acts can be presented by the prosecution. Here, the district attorney sought to present the testimony of some of the women whose legal claims were too old, but the judge only allowed two women to testify. Judges’ decisions on this often weigh the importance of the claims against their age, because any evidence can become stale and difficult to evaluate once substantial time has passed.
The first was the victim in the case, a woman who met Cosby when she worked at Temple University where he was a trustee. She claimed that Cosby drugged and raped her in 2004. The second was a woman who made similar claims in 1996.
Although only these two alleged victims testified, a number of jurors admitted during jury selection that they knew about the additional sexual assault claims against Cosby.
After a relatively straightforward case by the prosecution, the defense offered a closing argument that lasted only six minutes. They argued that the prosecution had failed to prove their case against Cosby beyond a reasonable doubt.