New York

Bill Cosby Trial: What a Deadlocked Jury Means

"It's a very, very rare occasion that a judge is going to let a jury off the hook on the first indication they're hopelessly deadlocked," says one veteran jury consultant

After five days, the jury in entertainer Bill Cosby's sex assault trial outside of Philadelphia was unable to reach a verdict on three counts of aggravated indecent assault. The judge decleared a mistrial in the case Saturday after the jury told the judge for a third time they were deadlocked.

Q: What happens to Cosby now there's a hung jury?
A: The charges stand. Prosecutors would get four months to decide whether to retry the case or abandon it. Tully said Cosby would likely get the same bail conditions — he is free on $1 million bond — as he has attended all the hearings.

Q: How do prosecutors decide whether to retry a case that produced a hung jury?
A: Patterson said the factors include prosecutors' own analysis of the strength of the evidence, how high-profile the case is and the cost to go through another trial.

"There's a phrase that's often repeated, that the evidence rarely gets any better after the first trial for the prosecution," Paskey said. He said prosecutors also factor in the willingness of victims to go through a trial again.

Prosecutors can ask the jurors who could not reach a verdict if they will discuss what occurred. If they give the district attorney the sense there were several people willing to acquit, that would complicate a decision to retry him, Tully said.

"I would think they'd listen very heavily to what the jurors had to say, if they'll talk," Tully said.

Q: How long can deliberations go?
A: It's rare that juries go for more than a couple days, according to veteran jury consultant Art Patterson, a social psychologist with DecisionQuest, a New York-based trial consulting firm.

The Cosby jurors were picked 300 miles away in Pittsburgh and have been sequestered in the Philadelphia suburbs during the trial.

"Hung juries aren't that common because jurors want to reach a verdict, and they usually get to a verdict," Patterson said.

If deliberations drag on, that's usually because either the panel is divided or, in complex cases, they are reviewing voluminous amounts of evidence. The Cosby jury got the case on the sixth day of the trial.

"People usually have their minds pretty well made up early in the deliberations process," Patterson said.

Philadelphia-based jury consultant Melissa M. Gomez said: "There's a good chance that there's polarizations of opinion on either end, and they want to go through evidence carefully, simultaneously — those things are happening at once."

Q: Short of a mistrial, can the judge take other action?
A: Patterson said judges have discretion to remove individual jurors under certain conditions.

"If the other jurors say to the judge, one juror will not deliberate, will not discuss facts, reasons, will not participate, judges have actually removed jurors. That's a very extreme move, but it can be done," he said.

Tully said the judge would need "some foundation or basis for that radical step," more than simply hearing that someone has dug in their heels.

"Jurors are not required to give up a real belief just to reach a verdict," Tully said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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