The jury in Bill Cosby’s civil trial in nearly reached a verdict on Friday afternoon, but will instead have to start their deliberations over again on Monday morning.
The unusual twist came at the end of the second day of deliberations in Santa Monica Superior Court. The plaintiff, Judy Huth, has sued Cosby for allegedly molesting her at the Playboy Mansion when she was 16, in 1975.
The jurors were asked to answer nine questions, including whether Cosby sexually molested Huth, whether she was under 18, whether Cosby had reason to know that, and how much damages she should be awarded.
At the end of the day on Friday, the jury informed Judge Craig Karlan that they had reached a verdict on eight of the questions. The only unanswered question pertained to whether Cosby acted with “malice, oppression or fraud” – which would trigger punitive damages if they answered yes.
Karlan at first indicated that he would accept a partial verdict, but then changed his mind after a bailiff informed him that the court building would close for the day within a few minutes. Karlan said he did not have sufficient time to take the verdict, and did not want to incur Sheriff’s Department overtime.
Instead, the jurors will resume deliberations on Monday morning. But they will have to start their discussions all over again – potentially wiping out the verdicts on the eight questions – because the foreperson had to be excused due to a pre-planned trip. An alternate juror will be seated on Monday to take her place.
Huth’s attorneys wanted the judge to take the partial verdict, as it appeared from the way the verdict form is structured that it would go in their favor.
Cosby’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, objected to that, saying that the same 12 jurors should decide all of the issues in the case. The judge did not agree, but in the end, the defense got its preference because of the clock.
Nine of the 12 jurors must agree to reach a verdict on each issue.
Earlier in the day, Karlan denied Bonjean’s motion for a mistrial. Bonjean alleged that Lili Bernard, an accuser in a separate Cosby civil case, was seen walking with one of the jurors during a break. She argued that Bernard appeared to be engaged in jury tampering. Bernard and the juror each denied any improper conversation, and the judge rejected the request.
The jurors also asked 10 questions of the judge, seeking definitions of various terms on the verdict form. At one point, they indicated they were having difficulty agreeing on an amount of damages to award. Bonjean seemed frustrated with what the questions revealed about deliberations, saying that at least nine of them wanted to “punish” Cosby for his overall sexual behavior.