18 Jun 2017

Bill Cosby case: Judge declares mistrial after jury deadlock

11:04 am on 18 June 2017

A US judge has declared a mistrial in the Bill Cosby sex assault case after the jury remained deadlocked for days.

Bill Cosby reacts after the judge declared  a mistrial in the aggravated indecent assault trail.

Bill Cosby reacts after the judge declared a mistrial in the aggravated indecent assault trail. Photo: AFP

The seven men and five women were unable to reach a unanimous decision after some 53 hours of deliberations in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Mr Cosby, 79, is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. His lawyers had argued the sex was consensual.

The US comedian could now face new proceedings.

He walks away from court a free man, but the prosecution has already said they are pursuing a fresh trial.

Dozens of women say he assaulted them, but statutes of limitation rules mean he was allowed to be tried for Ms Constand's allegation only.

The veteran entertainer could have faced up to a decade in prison if found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, which allegedly took place at his Philadelphia home 13 years ago.

Announcing the decision, Pennsylvania judge Steven O'Neill reminded Mr Cosby that he remains charged and on bail, despite the mistrial.

Bill Cosby arrives with actress Keshia Knight Pulliam (R) at the Montgomery County Courthouse before the opening of the sexual assault trial June 5, 2017 in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Bill Cosby arrives at court with fellow Cosby Show actress Keshia Knight Pulliam at the beginning of the trial. Photo: AFP

'Blinding power of celebrity'

One of Mr Cosby's lawyers, Brian McMonagle, applauded the decision, saying: "The judge is right: justice is real."

"We came here looking for an acquittal. But like that Rolling Stone song says 'you don't always get what you want'. Sometimes you get what you need."

The district attorney who brought the charges, Kevin Steele, told reporters that the prosecution was seeking a retrial.

"We will evaluate and review our case. We will take a hard look at everything involved and then we will retry it. As I said in court, our plan is to move this case forward as soon as possible."

A lawyer representing many of Mr Cosby's accusers, Gloria Allred, said she was hoping the prosecution would try the case again.

"We can never underestimate the blinding power of celebrity, but justice will come."

In a strongly-worded statement read by an aide, Bill Cosby's wife, Camille, took aim at the prosecutor, who she called "heinously and exploitatively ambitious", and the judge who she described as "overtly arrogant".

The jury had been instructed by the judge to work into the weekend to reach a verdict, after they first revealed that they were deadlocked on the case on Thursday.

But the panel returned again on Saturday to tell the judge they were still deadlocked on all three counts.

Some of the many women who accused Mr Cosby of drugging and assaulting them over a 40-year time span were present in court last week awaiting the verdict.

The accuser, Andrea Constand, took the stand during the trial, telling the court the assault had left her feeling "humiliated" by someone she considered a friend and mentor.

At the time of the incident, she was the director of women's basketball at Temple University, where Mr Cosby was on the board of trustees.

Ms Constand, who was then 31, said he had offered her unidentified pills one night that left unable to stop his advances.

In a 2005 disposition, Mr Cosby said he had given her the antihistamine Benedryl to relieve stress and went on to have consensual relations.

Prior to the court case, Ms Constand had been barred from sharing her story in public due to a confidential settlement reached with Mr Cosby in 2006.

When the deposition was unsealed by a federal judge two years ago, it was revealed he had previously admitted to giving young women sedatives in the past.

Mr Cosby, who faces at least four separate civil lawsuits, refused to testify at the trial.

The case is seen as the biggest US celebrity court case since the murder trial of former American football player OJ Simpson in 1995.

- BBC

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