Updated: Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 9:52 PM
Acting on a petition from media organizations, a Montgomery County judge on Wednesday unsealed the names of the jurors at Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault trial, but ordered that the jurors not publicly discuss the deliberations that led to last weekend’s mistrial.
Within hours, though, that order appeared to have been broken. ABC News reported Wednesday night that one juror, whom it did not identify, told it that 10 of the 12 wanted to convict Cosby but were blocked by two intractable holdouts.
The juror did not name the holdouts or their reasoning, and described the final hours of the 52-hour deliberation as tense and infuriating.
“People would just start crying out of nowhere, we wouldn’t even be talking about [the case] — and people would just start crying,” the juror said, according to ABC.
Though unconfirmed, that report appeared to be the first glimpse of the reasons behind the jurors’ marathon deadlock and how close the panel was to a verdict. According to the juror interviewed by ABC, when deliberations began, the seven men and five women on the panel were leaning toward acquitting Cosby on claims he sexually assaulted Andrea Constand at his home in 2004.
The account emerged hours after Judge Steven T. O’Neill’s five-page ruling acknowledged that the law gives the media “a qualified First Amendment right to the names of the jurors in this case.”
But in the same decision, O’Neill cited concerns, echoed by prosecutors and defense lawyers, that outsize media attention could taint the jury-selection process for Cosby’s retrial, which could occur this year. He also put in writing the order he gave the 12 jurors and six alternates before discharging them Saturday — that they not share what happened behind closed doors during their marathon deliberations in Norristown.
“Jurors shall not disclose arguments or comments made, or votes cast, by fellow jurors during deliberations,” O’Neill wrote.
Within minutes of the release of the names, reporters were casting out across Allegheny County, flocking to jurors’ homes or trying them by phone, email, and even Twitter.
“I can’t see how it benefits me,” one of the few who answered his phone told the Inquirer and Daily News in explaining why he wouldn’t discuss the case. At a home owned by another juror, a woman behind a closed door shouted “Go away!” as a reporter approached.
Judge Jeffrey Manning, president judge of Allegheny County Court, said he had greeted the jurors in Pittsburgh as they returned from Norristown on Saturday evening and reminded them of the order.
“I told them they had a First Amendment right to speak to whomever they choose as long as they are not violating the confidentiality of jury deliberations. They can follow their own conscience,” Manning said Wednesday. “They also have a right to not speak.”
And, the judge said, “they all indicated they didn’t want to talk. They had no interest.”
ABC said that it interviewed the juror Monday, two days before the judge released the names. The panel member told the network the jury had reached its deadlock by the 30th hour, and spent the last 22 cloistered but making no progress. Tensions were so high in the room, another juror slammed his fist into a wall.
“I think he broke his pinky knuckle,” the juror told the network. “If we kept going, there was definitely going to be a fight.”
Though not describing the others’ views of the case, the juror said the evidence suggested Cosby did not act with premeditation but took advantage of the situation with Constand, a Temple University employee who looked up to him a mentor.
“I think that he gave [the pills] to her, and then later when he saw what was up, maybe he figured, ‘Maybe I’ll do something,’ ” the panel member told ABC.
O’Neill declared the mistrial Saturday morning when the jury reported being hopelessly deadlocked. Earlier in the case, the judge had signaled he would release jurors’ names immediately after a verdict, responding to a petition from news outlets led by Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of the Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com.
But O’Neill hesitated after the mistrial ruling, asking prosecutors and the defense team to weigh in. Both District Attorney Kevin R. Steele and lead defense lawyer Brian T. McMonagle opposed the release of the names, saying it could impact a retrial.
Eli Segal, a Pepper Hamilton lawyer representing the media, argued that the names were public records and that any media coverage of deliberations would have marginal impact, “given that the prosecution and the defense have spoken publicly about this case, including evidence that was not heard in court.”
In his ruling, O’Neill said he tried to balance the “rights of the parties to a fair and impartial trial” with the media’s First Amendment rights.
“We applaud Judge O’Neill for taking this important step to uphold our First Amendment right to the names of the jurors,” Stan Wischnowski, executive editor and senior vice president of PMN, said in a statement. “The insights that these jurors can provide are certain to yield a more complete understanding of what went into their respective decisions in this high-profile case.”
But while the judge agreed to release the names — and said any could talk about their own opinions — he barred them from publicly discussing the group deliberations, which he said could unfairly shape the jury of the next trial. “Future jurors will be reluctant to speak up or say what they think when deliberating if they fear that what they say during deliberations will not be kept secret,” he wrote.
Whether the rest of the jurors were remaining silent because they were ordered to do so or wanted to do so wasn’t immediately clear. Even social-media clues were scarce. Just one panel member, an alternate, appeared to turn to Facebook, and only to chronicle her relief that the trial was over.
“I’m coming home!!!!” Kristen Williams posted a few minutes before 1 p.m. Saturday, about two hours after O’Neill had declared the mistrial. The post was tagged with a Montgomery County location. About five hours later, Williams posted again: “Finally back in Pittsburgh! Thank the Lord.”
When a friend asked, she commented: “I was in Philly for the Cosby case … praising God I’m home.”
Staff writers Justine McDaniel, Michaelle Bond, Nancy Phillips, Craig R. McCoy, and Mark Fazlollah contributed to this article, as did Dan Majors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Read full story: Report: 10 of 12 Cosby jurors wanted to convict