They were selected far from the site of the Cosby trial, the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., because of concerns about the effect of pretrial publicity. Pennsylvania judicial officials refused to detail the terms of their sequestration — whether, for example, they can have a laptop computer with them. But the jurors clearly have been warned against digesting any media about the case.
“You can’t even discuss the case with members of your own family,” Judge O’Neill told them at the outset.
Being on a sequestered jury is “not unlike being in a medium-security prison,” said Paula L. Hannaford-Agor, director of the Center for Juries Studies at the National Center for State Courts.
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.
Late on Tuesday, a change in the guards outside Courtroom A caused a stir in the press pack. 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 press pack dispersed until just after 9:15 p.m., when Judge O’Neill summoned everyone back into the courtroom.
The room was noisy and Judge O’Neill 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 should be back at about 9 a.m. on Wednesday. The jurors filed out.
The reporters soon followed.