Cosby jury deadlock a mystery as judge seals jurors' names

The jury deadlock in Bill Cosby’s trial remains a mystery as judge declines to make public their names.

Insight into the conflicting views that divided jurors in the Cosby case was elusive Saturday as the judge declined to release their names. That decision prevented reporters from interviewing jurors about their extended deliberations and their inability to reach agreement on the charges that the entertainer drugged and assaulted Andrea Constand at his Cheltenham home in 2004.

Jurors’ names are routinely made public at the close of trials, but in this case, Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill kept them under seal.

On Saturday, a lawyer for Philadelphia Media Network, owner of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, sent the judge a letter seeking the immediate release of the names. In it, Eli Segal of Pepper Hamilton LLP said the information was of “extraordinary public importance” and the news outlets had a First Amendment right to it.

Without such disclosure, Segal wrote, “the ‘value of openness itself’ – a fundamental pillar of our judicial system in this country – is threatened.’ ”

O’Neill declared a mistrial in the high-profile case Saturday when the jury of seven men and five women deadlocked after five days of deliberations. Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said he would retry the case.

That seemed to give the judge pause about releasing the juror’s names. O’Neill told the panel members they should keep their deliberations confidential. Not only did he say they had no obligation to speak to reporters or grant interviews, but he also warned that doing so could potentially affect the outcome of Cosby’s retrial.

The jury that ultimately could not decide Cosby’s fate was chosen in Allegheny County after defense lawyers successfully argued that pretrial publicity had made it difficult to find a fair and impartial jury in Montgomery County. The panel was transported to Norristown and sequestered nearby throughout the trial. When a mistrial was declared, jurors were quickly sent back to Western Pennsylvania.

Earlier this month, media outlets including the Inquirer and Daily News filed a motion for the release of the jurors’ names. At the time, prosecutors and defense lawyers said they had no objection to making public the names at the close of the trial.

On Saturday, O’Neill said he would give prosecutors until Monday to decide whether to oppose media efforts to learn the jurors’ names. He said they should consider “any future chilling effect” the disclosure might have on the retrial.

Staff writer Laura McCrystal contributed to this article.

 

 

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