Matt Roark / AFP
SANTA MONICA, CA – After two days of deliberation in which they reached verdicts on nearly all of the questions put to them, the jurors in a civil trial who were deciding on the sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby will have to start from scratch Monday.
By the end of court Friday, a Los Angeles County jury 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 any damages. In all, they answered eight of the nine questions in the judgment form, all but one of which asked whether Cosby had acted in a manner that required punitive damages.
Judge Craig Carlan, who promised a juror when she agreed to serve that she could leave after Friday for the pre-commitment, decided over Cosby’s attorney’s objections to accepting and reading the verdict on questions answered by the jury. But he had to change course when deputies attended the Santa Monica Courthouse and asked him to vacate the courtroom. The closing time of the court is 4:30 pm because there is no budget for MPs overtime
Karlan refused to ask the departed juror, who was named vice president, to return on Monday, so the jurors will have to start again with her alternate replacement.
“I’m not going to take my word back,” Karlan said.
It was a strange end to a strange day of jury deliberations. It began with a note to the judge about what he called a “personal case” between two jurors that was making their work difficult.
After being called into the courtroom and getting them to agree that every juror would be heard in the debates, the jurors appealed, but they had a constant series of questions about issues relating to their form of judgment that the judge and attorneys had to discuss and answer. One of the questions was how to calculate the damages.
After the lunch break, Cosby’s attorney Jennifer Bonjian was moved by a photo taken by a member of Cosby’s team that showed a juror standing close to Cosby’s accuser who was sitting in the audience watching the trial.
Karlan said that the photo did not indicate any conversation had taken place, and he quickly dismissed the wrongful claim, obtaining assurances from the juror in question, and then the entire jury, that no one had discussed the case with them.
The accused, Los Angeles artist Lily Bernard, who sued Cosby in New Jersey, denied speaking to any jurors.
“I have never spoken to a juror,” Bernard told the judge from her courtroom seat. “I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize this issue. I don’t even look at them.”
Karlan struggled to get past the hurdles and get the jurors to deliberate as long as possible, and he kept lawyers, journalists, and court staff in the courtroom willing to step back once the verdict was read, but it was ultimately futile.
Jurors began deliberations Thursday morning after a two-week trial.
Cosby, 84, who was released from prison when his criminal conviction in Pennsylvania was overturned nearly a year ago, did not turn up. He denied any sexual contact with Hoth in a 2015 video that was shown to the jury. The denial was repeated throughout the trial by his spokesperson and lawyer.
In her controversial closing arguments, Bonjian urged jurors to consider the public allegations against Cosby and consider only the trial evidence, which she said came nowhere near proving Hoth’s case.
Huth’s attorney, Nathan Goldberg, told jurors that Cosby should be held accountable for the harm he inflicted on his client.
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