Regardless of what happened in court today, there will forever be a before and after when it comes to Bill Cosby.
On Saturday morning a judge declared a mistrial in the sexual assault case against Cosby after the jury insisted it was hopelessly deadlocked on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault the 79-year-old entertainer had been facing. Andrea Constand, 44, had accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting her at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004, back when she was employed by Temple University, the comedian’s alma mater.
The seven-man, five woman jury started deliberating late Monday upon the conclusion of the relatively swift six-day trial in Norristown, Pa. The panel—purposely selected from an expanded pool of jurors closer to Pittsburgh than Philadelphia, where Cosby has a home—had been sequestered for the duration and bused 300 miles to the courthouse each day. They said on Friday that they were deadlocked, but Judge Steve T. O’Neill instructed them to keep trying to reach a verdict.
Camille Cosby, Bill’s wife, was with him at the courthouse last Monday as a show of support, but did not return. Cosby, who walks with a cane and who says he is now legally blind, was accompanied by his lawyers. A rep for Cosby told E! News Wednesday that he didn’t want Camille and other family members there to witness the “circus” surrounding the verdict.
A statement from Camille read in court Saturday called Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele “heinously and exploitively ambitious” and the lawyers representing her husband’s accusers “totally unethical.”
Cosby was sworn in but did not testify and the defense ultimately called only one witness, a detective who had interviewed Constand back in 2005.
Constand—the one of more than four dozen women who had come forward proclaiming to be victims of Cosby’s predatory ways to see him charged with a crime—was in court Saturday. After the mistrial was declared, she hugged fellow accusers who had attended the trial, but she did not immediately address the media outside the courthouse.
During the course of their deliberations, the jury had asked to review a number of things, including Constand’s initial report to the Durham (Ontario, Canada) police or a transcript of the testimony given by Officer David Mason, who took Constand’s statement; the portion of Constand’s testimony in which she described what happened on the night in question; and the deposition Cosby gave in 2005 when Constand filed a civil lawsuit against him.
In the 2005 deposition, Cosby admitted to obtaining Quaaludes to give to women he had designs on having sex with. He admitted in the deposition to giving Constand three half-pills of Benadryl, but didn’t say he gave her Quaaludes. The suit was eventually settled.
Outside the court today, Cosby’s team declared victory.
“The legacy didn’t go anywhere. It has been restored,” Cosby rep Andrew Wyatt said, per the Los Angeles Times.
Gloria Allred, who represents multiple Cosby accusers, countered, “It’s too early to celebrate, Mr. Cosby.”
The repercussions of the Cosby case—and the years of drama that preceded him standing trial—have reverberated across the entertainment industry and beyond, fracturing public opinion in a unique way as many felt that a serial sexual predator had finally been unmasked, while some felt that Cosby was being railroaded, targeted because of his wealth, fame and race. Outrage compounded as people questioned why it had taken so many women speaking out for authorities to take decisive action, and even Cosby’s initial defenders started to buckle under the weight of so many stories.
“I don’t know what to think after being the subject [himself]of opportunistic lawyers, you know, exploitation. Anything can happen in this world,” Jim Carrey, who said he had Cosby’s albums back in the day but who also knows from being the target of salacious claims, said on The Howard Stern Show last week. “So I don’t know what to think about all that. It certainly seems damning. You know, who knows?”
But regardless of which side people came down on, guilty or innocent or somewhere in between, any option was a nauseating prospect because of what Cosby meant to so many people. The Cosby Show is one of the best family sitcoms of all time, it spent five seasons as the No. 1 show on television, and at the center of it all was Cosby’s Dr. Cliff Huxtable, TV dad for the ages. Whether you were a fan of his stand-up or not, Cosby was ubiquitous in the 1980s and early ’90s.
And there is a camp which thinks that Cosby’s failings as a person do not diminish what he achieved creatively or as a celebrity.
Though even if that is technically true, seemingly no academics or celebrities who’ve talked about the case have ventured to suggest that the two won’t be forever linked, or that it won’t be up to future generations to process Cosby’s impact on the culture for themselves, with all the information that comes with it.
“His legacy is forever going to be tarnished,” Larry Wilmore, who when he hosted The Nightly Show was unforgiving of the comedian as the allegations mounted, told the Los Angeles Times while the trial was underway. “It may be one of those things that people compartmentalize. But it will overshadow his career because of the severity and just because of the sheer number of women involved.”
Eddie Murphy reportedly backed out of doing a Cosby bit—his impression of the elder comedian is a classic moment of his 1987 concert film Eddie Murphy Raw—on the Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special in 2015, but he broke out his Cosby when he accepted the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor last year.
Noting, with a knowing look in his eye, that “Bill has one of these [prizes],” Murphy said, “Did y’all make Bill give his back?”
“You know you’ve f–ked up when they want you to give your trophies back,” he continued, referring to the doctorates and other honors rescinded in the wake of the mounting allegations.
And then, mimicking Cosby’s voice and rambling style, Murray said, among other things, “Some of the people who feel that I should give back my [bleepin’] trophies, just because you may have heard, recently, that I allegedly put the pill in the people’s chocolate…And who is Hannibal Buress?!”
The audience certainly sounded like they loved it.