Jury in Bill Cosby sex assault case says it is close to a verdict

Bill Cosby (left) has denied having any sexual encounter with Ms Judy Huth. PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA (NYTIMES) - The jurors in the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial came close to deciding the case Friday (June 17), but their uncertainty over how to address some remaining issues in reaching a verdict led the judge to decide they should return on Monday (June 20) to resume their deliberations.

Before they finished the second day of deliberations in the courthouse in Santa Monica, California, Judge Craig Karlan said the jurors had resolved most of the questions on a verdict sheet they were being asked to vote on.

But there was no discussion of how the jury had voted on those questions, including one that concerned whether Cosby should pay damages to Ms Judy Huth, who said he molested her in 1975 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles when she was 16.

One complicating factor is that one of the 12 jurors who sat through the two days of deliberations needed to be excused, Mr Karlan said, so an alternate would take a seat with the panel on Monday, and the jurors would have to reconsider most of the issues.

"Unfortunately, you will have to start from scratch," Mr Karlan said.

It is not clear, though, whether the inclusion of a new juror will have a substantial effect on the deliberations because only nine of the 12 jurors need to agree on a verdict.

Cosby, 84, has denied having any sexual encounter with Ms Huth. He has not been present at the trial and did not testify after invoking his Fifth Amendment right, but he was heard by the jurors in a videotaped deposition saying he did not remember ever meeting Ms Huth.

Ms Huth's friend took two photos of Cosby and Huth together at the mansion, though, and the photos have been entered into evidence.

On Thursday (June 16), the jurors were given a verdict sheet consisting of nine questions they had to answer in turn to help them reach a verdict and decide on any damages.

They had asked the judge for clarifications on a number of the questions, including one that dealt with whether Cosby was "motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in Ms Huth, a minor".

Over the course of 10 days of testimony, the jury heard Ms Huth's account that she and her friend had met Cosby in 1975 in a park in San Marino, California, where he was making the film Let's Do It Again.

She and the friend, Ms Donna Samuelson, testified that Cosby invited them to his tennis club and then to the house where he was staying, where he gave them alcohol and got them to follow him in their car to the Playboy Mansion.

In testimony, Ms Huth, now 64, described how, in a bedroom at the mansion, Cosby had forced her to perform a sex act on him.

Cosby's lawyers have described Ms Huth's account as "a complete and utter fabrication".

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