SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — After two days of deliberations in which they reached verdicts on almost every question put to them, jurors in a civil trial deciding whether to sexual abuse allegations against Bill Cosby will have to start from zero on Monday.
By the end of the court day Friday, the Los Angeles County jury had reached an agreement on whether Cosby sexually assaulted plaintiff Judy Huth at the Playboy Mansion when she was 16 in 1975, and whether Huth deserved damages. In all, they had answered eight of the nine questions on their verdict form, all but one of which asked whether Cosby acted in a way that should warrant punitive damages.
Judge Craig Karlan, who had promised a juror when she agreed to serve that she could leave after Friday for a pre-commitment, decided over objections from Cosby’s lawyers to accept and read the verdict on the issues to which the jury had responded. But he had to change course when deputies from the Santa Monica courthouse appeared and asked him to clear the courtroom. The courthouse has a mandatory closing time of 4:30 p.m. due to a lack of overtime budget for MPs
Karlan refused to demand that the outgoing juror, who had been chosen as president, return on Monday, so the jurors will have to start over with a substitute in her place.
“I won’t go back on my word,” Karlan said.
It was a bizarre end to a strange day of jury deliberation. It began with a note to the judge about what he called a “personality issue” between two of the jurors that made their job difficult.
After calling them into the courtroom and getting them to agree to each juror being heard in the discussions, the jurors resumed, but had a constant series of questions about issues with their verdict form that the judge and the lawyers had to discuss and respond. One question was about how to calculate damages.
After the lunch break, Cosby’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, requested a mistrial due to a photo taken by a member of Cosby’s team that showed a juror standing near an accuser of Cosby who sat in the audience watching the trial.
Karlan said the photo did not indicate any conversation and quickly dismissed the motion to quash, gaining assurances from the juror in question and then the entire jury that no one had discussed the matter with them.
The accuser, Los Angeles artist Lily Bernard, who filed her own lawsuit against Cosby in New Jersey, denied speaking to jurors.
“I never spoke to any jurors,” Bernard told the judge from his seat in the courtroom. “I would never do anything to jeopardize this case. I don’t even look at them.
Karlan fought to overcome obstacles and keep jurors deliberating as long as possible, and kept lawyers, reporters and court staff in the courtroom ready to flee as soon as a verdict was reached. read, but it was ultimately unsuccessful.
Jurors began deliberating Thursday morning after a two-week trial.
Cosby, 84, who was released from prison when his Pennsylvania criminal conviction was overturned nearly a year ago, did not show up. He denied any sexual contact with Huth in an excerpt from a 2015 video deposition shown to jurors. The denial was repeated throughout the trial by his spokesman and lawyer.
In contentious closing arguments, Bonjean urged jurors to look past the public allegations against Cosby and only consider the trial evidence, which she says doesn’t come close to proving Huth’s case.
Huth’s attorney, Nathan Goldberg, told jurors that Cosby should be held accountable for the harm he did to his client.
The Associated Press does not normally name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they come forward publicly, as Huth and Bernard each did.
Follow AP Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton