NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) - The jurors in Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial concluded their fourth day of deliberation on Thursday, unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the three charges against the entertainer.
Judge Steven O'Neill in Norristown, Pennsylvania, sent the jurors, many of whom looked exhausted, back to their hotel a few minutes after 9 p.m. on Thursday after praising them for their efforts.
The jury has completed about 40 hours of deliberations, including three consecutive 12-hour days, without reaching an unanimous verdict and will return on Friday.
O'Neill had instructed the jurors to continue trying to deliver a verdict around 11:30 a.m., following a note in which they said they could not agree on a verdict on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
Cosby, 79, once beloved for his brand of family-friendly comedy, is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, then 31, at his home near Philadelphia in 2004.
Constand and other accusers say Cosby, the star of the 1980s hit TV comedy "The Cosby Show," often plied them with pills and alcohol before assaulting them in a series of incidents over four decades.
Constand's allegations are the only ones to result in criminal charges, with many of the others too old to allow for prosecution. Cosby has denied every claim, saying his encounters with Constand and others were consensual.
A hung jury would represent a clear victory for Cosby, who would avoid what could have been years in prison. Prosecutors would have the option of seeking a retrial if the jury cannot reach a verdict.
Following the jury's morning note, one of Cosby's accusers, Jewel Allison, began crying. Soon after, Cosby protesters and supporters faced off in verbal confrontations outside the courthouse.
O'Neill rejected a motion from Cosby's lawyers for a mistrial on Thursday morning. The judge and the lawyers met in private just before 9 p.m. outside the presence of reporters gathered in the courtroom, so it was unclear whether defense lawyers renewed their request.
The jurors have spent days wrestling with which version of the night in question was accurate: Constand's or Cosby's. They have spent days asking to have testimony read back, including Constand's trial testimony as well as the first report she made to police in 2005.
The jury also revisited Cosby's description of the night from sworn depositions he gave in 2005 and 2006 during a civil lawsuit by Constand and a police interview he conducted in 2005. Cosby did not testify.
Defense lawyers during the trial emphasized discrepancies in Constand's statements to police in 2005 in an effort to undermine her credibility.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, used her testimony as well as the words of a second accuser, Kelly Johnson, to portray Cosby as a serial predator. Johnson told jurors Cosby sexually assaulted her in strikingly similar fashion in 1996.
In his decade-old depositions, Cosby said he gave Constand Benadryl, a common allergy drug whose side effects can include drowsiness. He called the pills her "friends" without telling her what they were, and admitted to giving other young women Quaaludes, a sedative, in the 1970s.
Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Andrew Hay