It is rare to sequester a jury for an entire trial, as is the case with the Cosby panel. Does the pressure of being confined away from home push juries toward a rushed consensus?
Experts disagree, but Judge O’Neill made it clear from the start of the case that the system is founded on the belief that the jurors’ judgment would be sound.
“You are it,” he told them. “You are the ones I am relying on.”
Everyone in the courthouse has an opinion on how it is going.
Rumors are rife. The hours of waiting are long. Both sides, and the media, too, look for any clue as to how the jury is progressing.
Here’s one educated guess.
“At this point, we can assume there is some significant disagreement — but perhaps the length of deliberation simply reflects the fact that the jury is doing a thorough and thoughtful review and discussion of the issues,” said Michelle Madden Dempsey, a law professor at Villanova University.
“The judge should not do anything to coerce a verdict,” she continued. “If they report to the judge that they’re deadlocked, the judge will probably give them a ‘Spencer charge/instruction.’”
Such an instruction, which is outlined in Pennsylvania law, is designed to clarify for jurors what is viewed as acceptable in reaching consensus and it advises them to continue to deliberate, with an open mind to the reconsideration of views, without giving up firmly held convictions.
“Basically, at this point, the jury should be left to do its work,” she said.
Late Tuesday, a change in the guards outside a courtroom caused a stir.
Had the jury been recalled because something was brewing? Was Judge O’Neill urging them to work past any differences they might have and finally reach a decision? But there was nothing, and the members of the news media dispersed until just after 9:15 p.m., when Judge O’Neill summoned everyone back into the courtroom.
The room was noisy and the judge brought it to attention by whistling loudly. The jurors, he said, had told him they wanted to go home.
“I was going to go on until 9:30 p.m., but I will bring them over now and move them on,” he said, referring to the jury.
The jury filed in.
“You are exhausted,” he said. “You are done for the day.”
“This only shows this court you are conscientious in engaging in the deliberative process,” Judge O’Neill said. “It’s exhausting work and the day has to come to an end.”
He praised their work ethic. But he told them again to respect their oath and not to communicate with the outside world about the case.
“Nothing except ‘I miss yous’ and ‘I love yous,’” he said, when they call home.
Judge O’Neill said they were to be back at about 9 a.m. on Wednesday. The jurors filed out.
The reporters soon followed.