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The Cosby Jurors Begin Deliberations as the World Watches

They were selected at hearings far from the site of the trial, the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., because of concerns about the impact of pretrial publicity — though many of the potential jurors said they too had heard about the case.

“If they can keep this Cosby trial down to a couple weeks, they’ll be O.K.,” said Ms. Crawford, an administrator with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, who, at 25, was the youngest person on the Simpson jury.

Of course, the burden of the O.J. trial dwarfs that of the Cosby case. The jurors in Norristown have been sequestered for little more a week, not nearly nine months. The stress surrounding this case is not nearly so fraught as the Simpson case, where on the heels of riots fed by racial tension, Mr. Simpson, a black football legend and television star, was accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend.

Mr. Cosby has said race may have played a part in the decision to prosecute him, but it’s not an argument that seems to have drawn a large constituency, in part because so many of the dozens of women who say he sexually assaulted them are black. The jury in his case is made of up 10 whites and two blacks.

Still, like any sequestered panel, these jurors are bearing their share of hardships. 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.

The jurors might have televisions in their hotel rooms, since the judge spoke last week of allowing them to get back to the hotel early enough to watch the Stanley Cup, which the Pittsburgh Penguins won on Sunday.

The Simpson jury was the longest-sequestered jury in United States history and it occupied an entire floor of the hotel. The stress produced weight gains and headaches, jurors later reported.

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. “The hotels are just not that good. They have to keep everybody together for the same meals, which means you’re going to be eating bland. And it’s a disruption — you’re away from your family and your job, and you’re constantly being watched. It’s a major stressful environment.”

It is rare to sequester a jury for an entire trial, as is the case with the Cosby panel. It used to be much more common to sequester juries during deliberations. Up until the 1970s, many state courts routinely did that, until rising costs became a concern.

Ms. Crawford said the frustrations of confinement could have played a part in the fact that the Simpson jury took only one day to reach its decision to acquit him.


Mr. Simpson clenches his fists in victory on Oct. 3, 1995, after the jury acquitted him in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman.

Myung Chun/Associated Press

“Starting out,” she said, “I thought we would deliberate for weeks. Knowing the different personalities on the jury, I thought it was going to be something that was very stressful, but it was surprisingly civil.”

Does the pressure of being confined, away from home, push juries toward a rushed consensus?

Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the Simpson case, criticized the practice of sequestering juries in a Daily Beast essay in 2011 following the acquittal of Casey Anthony in the death of her daughter — a decision reached by a sequestered jury.

“When jurors are forced to spend day and night with each other, apart from their families and friends,” Clark wrote, “they become a tribe unto themselves. Because they only have each other for company, and because most people prefer harmony to discord, there’s a natural desire to cooperate, to compromise in order to reach agreement.”

Ms. Hannaford-Agor sees the matter differently.

Research on juries has found that “while the trial is going on, people are being nice to each other and forming friendships, but once deliberations begin, many of them are genuinely surprised when they become aware of the very different conclusions their fellow jurors have reached on the evidence they’ve heard.”

Once they have worked through those differences, she said, most juries — sequestered or not — have a tendency to try to reach a consensus.

“People understand that as jurors they have to come to a unanimous decision,” she said, “and at the end of the day, they have to ask themselves, is their belief in their position so strong that they’re willing to be a holdout?”

At the outset of the Cosby trial, Judge O’Neill advised the jury that they would be the finders of fact, the deciders.

“You are it,” he told them. “You are the ones I am relying on.”

As he asked them to begin their deliberations Monday evening, a week later, he ordered them dinner.

“You are to retire and do justice as you see it,” he told them.

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