In another setback for the prosecution in Bill Cosby’s criminal trial for the 2004 rape of Andrea Constand, a Pennsylvania judge today agreed to release the names of the jury in the case that ended in a mistrial June 17.
“The request for names of the jurors is GRANTED and a list of the same shall be provided to the Court Administrator for distribution, following contact by the Court,” said an order by Judge Steven O’Neill on Wednesday (read it here). The move by the Norristown, PA-based judge in reaction to petitions from several media organizations comes despite Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele’s office “arguing that releasing the jurors’ names could have a chilling effect on future jurors and could impair the both parties’ right to a fair and impartial trial.” Steele’s office promised right after the mistrial was declared on Saturday that they would seek a new trial for the much-accused The Cosby Show star.
To that end, O’Neill made sure not much more than the names of the hung jury of seven men and five women, plus six alternates, would be in the public arena – at least for the foreseeable future. “Jurors shall not disclose anything said or done in the jury room by any of their fellow jurors that may indicate his or her thoughts or opinions,” he added in his order today regarding the previously sequestered citizens, to make sure there is no future “chilling effect” for the next Cosby jury. “Jurors shall not disclose arguments or comments made, or votes cast, by fellow jurors during deliberations” – which means the media will learn nothing if they track them down in their Pittsburgh-area homes.
About an hour after the order was made public, the names of the jurors and the alternates were released – once they had all been informed of the judge’s decision.
With more than 60 women claiming that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them over the decades, the soon-to-be 80-year-old actor was charged in late 2015 with three felony charges of second-degree aggravated indecent assault for the alleged attack on Constand, then a Temple University staffer, more than 13 years ago. If found guilty, he could face more than a decade behind bars.
The only criminal case in the country against the actor because of the Keystone State’s longer-than-usual statute of limitations for sex crimes, Cosby’s trial started on June 5 and ended June 12. Cosby was in the courtroom every day but did not take the stand; Constand did, for nearly 10 hours. Despite that, Cosby’s previous interviews with police, his deposition from Constand’s 2005 civil case, and a taped phone call with Constand’s mother were played in court. Still, after several days, the jurors announced June 15 that they were deadlocked in the case. O’Neill pushed them to try to find a verdict, but on the sixth day a mistrial was declared.
The Montgomery County D.A.’s office did not respond to request for comment on today’s ruling – but they can’t be pleased having fought it so hard the past few days.
Bill Cosby is still free on a $1 million bond.