“I don’t believe it was a single holdout,” Angela Agrusa tells The Hollywood Reporter about the Pennsylvania jurors that could not agree on a verdict. She also expresses doubt about another trial.
Two days after a Pennsylvania judge declared a mistrial in the sexual assault case against her client Bill Cosby, lawyer Angela Agrusa is back home in Los Angeles. “My body was in a state of clench for the entire week,” the 54-year-old attorney tells The Hollywood Reporter in an exclusive interview about the trial and the week of juror deliberations. Agrusa, who tried the high-profile case with co-counsel Brian McMonagle, adds that there were moments upon hearing juror questions last week that she was absolutely convinced the verdict returned would be guilty.
It wasn’t. Nor did jurors exonerate Cosby of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. But Agrusa is, in some fashion, declaring victory nonetheless. “We wanted an acquittal, but a mistrial or a deadlock is the same result as the group of jurors finding him not guilty,” she says. “Prosecutors didn’t have the evidence.”
One thing Agrusa doesn’t quite know — and, surprisingly, neither does almost everyone else — is the breakdown of the jury vote. Per Pennsylvania guidelines, Judge Steven O’Neill told jurors not to discuss what happened during deliberations. Each of the jurors is free to talk publicly about his or her own conclusions, but not about how peers sided. One alternative juror already has told a local radio station he would have voted to convict, but everyone else on the jury has thus far been tight-lipped. Perhaps they are adhering to the judge’s admonishment that “it can never be clearer that if you speak up, you could be chilling the justice system in the future if jurors are needed in this case.”
Despite the secrecy about the jury vote, rumors are flying.
“I heard it was a split,” says Agrusa. “I don’t believe it was a single holdout.”
A spokesperson for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office responds that Agrusa couldn’t possibly know.
Cosby’s attorney also addresses some of the most buzzed-about elements from the trial. For example, during the first week, Cosby’s publicist put out word that the entertainer might indeed take the witness stand. Agrusa says this wasn’t ruled out until the very last moment.
“He is a very charismatic man,” she says. “He is a storyteller. We knew a jury would want to hear from him. We were always prepared to put him on the stand. We were still talking about this on the weekend before close.” The defense team had vigorous discussions on the Friday night and Saturday morning between the first and second week of the trial. They discussed the gameplan for the defense case. Ultimately, they decided to bring just one witness — Det. Richard Schaffer — and the testimony lasted just a few minutes.
Why so brief?
Agrusa explains that she and co-counsel McMonagle were pleased how cross-examinations of the prosecution experts went. She feels they “set aside” those opinions and didn’t need to present Cosby’s own experts. Also, while legal observers made much over how the prosecutors were allowed to introduce Cosby’s deposition from his civil lawsuit with Constand — specifically, where he admitted to getting a prescription for Quaaludes to give to women — the defense team ultimately counted it as a factor favorable to a brief defense case.
“The rulings allowed the jury to hear Cosby’s own words,” she says. “The deposition testimony, the statements to police. … There was enough of his voice setting out the relationship was consensual.”
Cosby had hoped to bring one other witness — a Temple University advisor who claimed to have heard Constand describing a plan to win money from a celebrity — but Judge O’Neill blocked it.
Ultimately, the defense case lasted just minutes, but Agrusa believes it sent a powerful message about the merits of the plaintiff’s case. “It’s actually common for no defense witnesses,” she says.
Nevertheless, Agrusa admits it was a bit risky, and she says she endured a “rollercoaster of emotions” during the week of jury deliberations. “Every time a question came in that seemed detrimental [to Cosby], I thought a guilty verdict was coming,” she says. “Then, a question would come that was more favorable and I would look over to the prosecutors’ faces and see their concern.”
Agrusa says she struggled with putting on a straight face every time she left the courtroom last week. She was conscious how the throngs of reporters would read her facial expressions. After all, the media didn’t have much else to do but overanalyze every small development during the deliberation phase.
After the verdict, the Montgomery County DA’s Office quickly put out word there would be a retrial. The judge will gather the parties together for a conference soon, and a new trial date within the next 120 days will be picked. A spokesperson for the prosecution won’t foreclose the possibility, though, of attempting to first appeal some of O’Neill’s earlier rulings, including the one that prevented 13 alleged Cosby victims from taking the witness stand. (Instead, the judge only allowed one — Kelly Johnson, a former staffer at the William Morris Agency.)
Now back at her L.A. law office and preparing for a new series of filings in the civil cases — whose procedure will be determined in part by what happens in the criminal case — Agrusa isn’t entirely sold there will be a second criminal trial.
Referring to the prosecutors, she says, “I believe that the Commonwealth had to state [the intention of a retrial] when they stated it. They have a lot of searching to do when they make a decision. I hope they don’t [retry]. I don’t think the outcome would be any better for them. … Everyone knows that cases don’t get better with time.”