NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jury deliberations began Wednesday in Bill Cosby’s sex assault retrial.
The panel of seven men and five women got the case after receiving final instructions from the judge but returned less than two hours later to ask him for the legal meaning of “consent.”
Judge Steve O’Neill said he wasn’t able to answer the question, telling jurors that Pennsylvania law does not define consent. But he said jurors had already been given the definitions of the charges they were considering.
Deliberations got underway after a marathon day of closing arguments Tuesday that portrayed the comedian both as a calculating predator who is finally being brought to justice and as the victim of a multimillion-dollar frame-up by a “pathological liar.”
The two-week trial pitted Cosby, the 80-year-old former TV star once revered as “America’s Dad,” against Andrea Constand, a former Temple University sports administrator who testified that he knocked her out with three pills he called “your friends” and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004. He said their encounter was consensual.
“The time for the defendant to escape justice is over. It’s finally time for the defendant to dine on the banquet of his own consequences,” prosecutor Stewart Ryan told the jury.
Cosby’s lawyers argued that the charges were based on “flimsy, silly, ridiculous evidence.”
The jury heard testimony from five other women who said that Cosby drugged and violated them, too. Before excusing the jurors to deliberate, O’Neill told them they could consider the women’s testimony as possible evidence that Cosby had a pattern of predatory behavior, but he forbade them from using it to find that the comedian is “a person of bad character.”
Facing the prospect of a conviction and lengthy prison term, Cosby nevertheless seemed in good spirits Wednesday, giving a quick fist pump and sashaying toward well-wishers chanting, “We love Bill!” as he arrived at the courthouse.
His more streamlined first trial ended in a hung jury last year after six days of deliberations. Only one additional accuser testified that time. Nor were jurors told the amount of Cosby’s 2006 civil settlement with Constand: nearly $3.4 million, which defense lawyer Tom Mesereau on Tuesday called “one of the biggest highway robberies of all time.”
Cosby’s lawyers argued that Constand falsely accused Cosby so she could sue him and extract a big settlement. They called to the stand a woman who said Constand spoke of framing a prominent person — testimony that was blocked at last year’s trial.
“I have never seen or heard of a retrial that was as different as this was from the first trial,” said lawyer Dennis McAndrews, who has been following the retrial and is not associated with either side. “The prosecution now had multiple victims and the defense had the issue of money, which were powerful weapons for both sides.”
Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each carrying up to 10 years in prison.
The defense went after Constand, attacking her credibility and character and highlighting more a dozen inconsistencies in what she has said over the years.
“You’re dealing with a pathological liar, members of the jury,” said Mesereau, who won an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child molestation case.
Defense attorney Kathleen Bliss chastised Constand for “cavorting around with a married man old enough to be her grandfather.” She derided the other women as home-wreckers and suggested they made up their stories in a bid for money and fame.
She questioned the “personal morality” of one accuser and called another, model Janice Dickinson, a “failed starlet” and “aged-out model” who “sounds as though she slept with every man on the planet.”
And she slammed the #MeToo movement itself, calling Cosby its victim and likening it to a witch hunt or a lynching.
Critics said the defense team went too far.
“They’re playing on the same old myths that have been protecting perpetrators for centuries,” said Kristen Houser of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. She said the defense’s closing argument was filled with “rampant and ingrained” misconceptions about sexual assault and victim behavior.
“It was not only an attack on these six accusers,” Houser said, “it was a verbal slap to survivors all across this country.”
Gloria Allred, the lawyer for three of the women who testified, blasted the defense closing as “victim-shaming and victim-blaming” and said Cosby’s lawyers had smeared her clients in a win-at-all-costs effort at an acquittal.
Perhaps anticipating the criticism, Bliss told jurors in her closing that “questioning an accuser is not blaming the victim.”
Cosby spokeswoman Ebonee Benson echoed that sentiment when asked Wednesday about the criticism of the defense approach.
“There is no assassination of any character,” Benson said. “It is evidence that the commonwealth either selectively, deliberately or just didn’t want to take a look into. That’s simply what it is. … If anyone did any assassinating yesterday, it was the commonwealth toward our witnesses.”
In her own closing argument, Cosby prosecutor Kristen Feden rebuked Bliss for engaging in “utterly shameful” and “filthy” character assassination of Constand and the others.
“She is the exact reason why women don’t report these crimes,” Feden said.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)