Bill Cosby trial ends with mistrial - Tucson News Now

Bill Cosby trial ends with mistrial

Bill Cosby leaving court. (Source: CNN) Bill Cosby leaving court. (Source: CNN)

(RNN) - The judge in Bill Cosby's sexual assault case declared a mistrial Saturday morning after the jury indicated it could not reach a verdict.

Cosby was facing three charges of aggravated and indecent assault. The jury was deadlocked on all three charges.

The judge asked each member of jury if it was "hopelessly deadlocked" and they all indicated it was, and that further deliberation would not result in a unanimous verdict.

A mistrial does not mean the case is over. Cosby can be tried on the same charges again with a new jury, and the prosecution has indicated it will try the case again.

District Attorney Kevin Steele said the case is important, and he plans to see it through to a resolution.

"Moving forward with this case sends a strong message that victims of these types of crimes can come forward," Steele said. "(Andrea Constand) is entitled to a verdict in this case."

Attorneys for Cosby celebrated the verdict and declared Cosby's innocence. A signed statement was read from Cosby's wife, Camille Cosby, criticizing the prosecuting attorney, the court proceedings, the judge and the trial's media coverage.

"Juries are stuck when a prosecutor tries to put someone in prison, when they try to present things that are not presented in a courtroom," Andrew Wyatt, Cosby's publicist, said.

Wyatt also told Gloria Allred, who represents some of Cosby's accusers, to go back to law school.

Cosby himself did not speak.

Allred spoke shortly after the mistrial was announced and said Cosby's celebrity status overshadowed the seriousness of the charges against him.

"We can never underestimate the blinding power of celebrity," Allred said. "But justice will come. I hope that the prosecution will try this case again, and the next time the court will permit more prior bad act witness to testify as the prosecution had requested for this trial."

The decision came after a previous failure by the jury to reach a decision.

The jury deliberated for more than 30 hours before telling the judge Thursday that they were deadlocked. Cosby's attorney immediately motioned for a mistrial, which Judge Michael O'Neill denied.

The judge then ordered the jurors to try again to reach a decision.

O'Neill reminded the jurors that they had a duty to return a verdict, but added they were not compelled to surrender their heartfelt beliefs just to end the long, arduous trial.

On Friday, the jury asked the court to clarify what is reasonable doubt, leaving signs of a possible deadlock. 

The judge previously denied multiple requests by the defense to declare a mistrial.

Cosby had spoken to reporters during the deliberation thanking the jurors for their dedication and long hours, and thanking supporters who had gathered outside the courtroom. He urged the supporters to not argue with anyone but to maintain calm support for him.

The jury has been sequestered, and so were not aware of Cosby's comments.

Although more than 60 accusers came forward, one incident in 2004 was brought to trial. Andrea Constand said Cosby drugged her after talking about relaxation techniques. According to a police interview from 2005, Cosby gave Constand 1 1/2 Benadryl to relax.

The 6-foot-tall woman, who worked as a basketball staffer at Temple University, where Cosby was a trustee, says she was unable to fight off Cosby as he went into her pants.

The comedian did not take the stand in the course of the trial because it would have opened the door to state attorneys to call in other accusers as witnesses to challenge his testimony and question whether he denies drugging or molesting anyone.

He did, however, give thumbs-up as a court reporter reread the 2005 interview.

The jury did hear from Cosby in the form of recordings from a civil trial Constand brought in 2005. Authorities refused to charge Cosby then, but other women began coming forward with the same claim.

The Cosby controversy begins

A viral video from stand-up comic Hannibal Buress in 2014 started the inquiry into rumors and allegations of Cosby's having drugged and raped women. At the time, Cosby was a beloved comedian, entertainer and TV personality who was regarded as an upstanding family man.

Buress called Cosby a hypocrite for his criticism of black culture and other black comedians while allegedly raping women. (WARNING: Video contains profanity.)

The routine's popularity began the corruption of Cosby's public persona from a fatherly figure and respected celebrity to a man accused of sexual assault by dozens of women.

Cosby vehemently denied the claims, though he admitted in a 2005 deposition that he acquired Quaaludes, a heavy sedative, with the intent of giving them to women before sex. However, he said he never used them. 

Statutes of limitations prevented criminal charges for most of the alleged crimes, which dated back as far as the 1970s, but in many ways, the damage was already done.

The accusations sank a planned TV comeback and several projects in the works, and  cable network TV Land stopped showing reruns of The Cosby Show. Many organizations cut ties with Cosby, including his alma mater Temple University, where his career started. The U.S. Navy, in which Cosby served four years, stripped him of his title of honorary chief petty officer.

Cosby's early life

William Henry Cosby Jr. was born July 12, 1937, and grew up in a struggling family in Philadelphia. Part of the family's problems were a result of drunkenness by his father, a steelworker. His mother, Anna, cleaned houses to help the family survive.

Cosby began taking odd jobs as a youngster to help out financially, eventually dropping out of high school to join the Navy in 1956. However, he earned a G.E.D. and later attended Temple University in Philadelphia on a track scholarship.

It was there Cosby realized his exceptional talent at making people laugh, and he began telling jokes at a bar in 1961 to pick up quick money. He left school to take a job as a regular comedian at the Gaslight Cafe in New York City.

The New York Times recognized his talent early on and profiled him. It didn't take long for other publications, critics and the public to agree. Cosby's first comedy album, titled Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow… Right!, was released in 1963. It began a quick rise that continued virtually uninterrupted for the next six decades. His first Grammy Award came for the 1964 comedy recording I Started Out As a Child.

He became known for clean comedy, refusing to use profane language and focusing heavily on his family life. His exaggerated speaking style became one of his most recognizable performance traits.

Flood of sexual assault allegations

One thing Cosby was not known for, however, was controversy. That was until sexual assault claims that had been rumored for many years came to the surface in October 2014. Comedian Hannibal Buress was performing in Philadelphia, and the act took a sudden turn when he referred to the comedy icon as a rapist. Voicing frustration that Cosby talked down to other comedians for not cleaning up their acts, Buress pointed the audience's attention to several accusations from women in years past.

It opened the floodgates for dozens of accusations.

Such claims were nothing new for comedy star. A prosecutor had decided not to press charges against Cosby in 2004 after Constand accused him of drugging and fondling her at his Pennsylvania home. Cosby, 67 at the time, acknowledged having sex with the then-31-year-old woman but said it was consensual, and both parties reached a financial settlement in a civil suit the next year.

But new allegations surfaced after a video of Burress' routine with the harsh accusations went viral. What started with just a few women rapidly grew to include dozens of claims that Cosby, who has been married to his wife Camille since 1964, had used drugs or alcohol to impair women and violate them.

One woman, Judy Huth, filed a suit against Cosby on Dec. 2, 2014 for an alleged incident in the 1970s at the Playboy mansion when she was 15 years old. The case bypassed the statute of limitations because of a California law that allows victims of sexual abuse and assault to sue if they suffer psychological injuries later in life.

Cosby's lawyers filed a countersuit, saying the woman had tried to extort him for hush money a month earlier, first for $100,000 and then bumping the amount to $250,000. His representatives also claimed Huth tried to sell her story to tabloids a decade earlier, negating the law's requirement that claims of psychological damage are filed within three years. Required certification from a psychologist also was not included in Huth's filing, according to Cosby's lawyers.

Extortion attempt, family tragedy

A discredited charge of marital infidelity surfaced in 1997 when a woman who claimed to be his illegitimate daughter was accused of extortion. Autumn Jackson was arrested and charged with trying to extort $40 million from the entertainer after claiming he had fathered her out of wedlock. During testimony at the trial, Cosby admitted to the affair, but Jackson refused a paternity test. She was convicted, along with her husband and another man, and sentenced to serve 26 months in prison.

The extortion attempt came within hours of the death of Cosby's only son, Ennis. The 27-year-old was driving through California when he got out to fix a flat tire. A Ukrainian national robbed and shot Cosby in the back of the head. The killer was sentenced to life in prison the following year.

More family turmoil came in the form of a public, bitter conflict with his daughter, Erinn, who battled drug addiction. In addition to Ennis and Erinn, Cosby also had three other daughters - Ensa, Evin and Erika.

The Cosby Show's huge success

Cosby is most often associated with his hit NBC program The Cosby Show, which dominated primetime TV ratings during its run from 1984 through 1992 and opened the way for other shows with predominately black casts.

Though he starred in a career-defining sitcom that is generally regarded as one of the best situation comedies of all time, Cosby never won an Emmy for his role as Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, a man who became known as "America's Dad." He did, however, win two Golden Globes.

Before the show, he had already been an established stage and screen star for several decades, building up an acclaimed body of work. He won primetime Emmys for each of the three seasons I Spy was on the air, 1965 through 1968. It was the first primetime U.S. television drama featuring a black leading actor.

He won another primetime Emmy for a TV comedy special he did in 1969 and won two Daytime Emmys for the cartoon shows Little Bill and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.

When Cosby returned to school and earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts in 1976, Fat Albert was the source of a dissertation focused on racism in America.

His comedy albums earned Cosby nine Grammys. He was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 and an honor from the Kennedy Center in 2002.

He was also well-known as the spokesman for Jell-O from 1974 through 1999, producing a series of exuberant and often imitated TV commercials.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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