As the jury in Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial found itself in a deadlock Thursday after four days of deliberation, news of the development sparked tensions outside the Pennsylvania courthouse.
The sequestered jurors had deliberated about 30 hours before telling Judge Steven O'Neill that they couldn't reach a unanimous decision on any of the counts against the 79-year-old comedian. The judge told them to try again for a verdict.
But outside the Norristown courthouse where a half-dozen Cosby supporters lined the walkway holding signs that read "We Love Bill Cosby," the news was met with cheers and chants of “Free Cosby Now.”
"It hurts me to see a blind man go to prison for 30 years, come on now," a Cosby supporter said.
Lili Bernard, one of several Cosby accusers who had gathered in the courthouse in anticipation of a verdict, tore through the spontaneous rally and confronted the growing crowd of the comedian's supporters.
“I experienced it firsthand when he drugged me, he raped me, he threatened me to silence,” she said through tears. “I came home to my boyfriend at the time—who has been my husband, my one and only since 1990 — I came home drugged and sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby to him.”
Bernard said she was drugged and assaulted by the comedian in the 1990s before he gave the actress a one-time role on "The Cosby Show." She has been a regular attendee at deliberations this week, sometimes wearing a pin that reads “We Stand in Truth.”
A Cosby supporter stood there frozen, his hands clasping hers. They eventually hugged and parted, a tense encounter over as quickly as it began.
Sitting just a few steps away, Cosby accuser Victoria Valentino also pushed back tears.
“It’s emotionally draining. It’s very frustrating,” she said of the jury’s inability to reach a verdict.
Moments later, spectators clamored on the sidewalk as a small drum line passed through the crowd. Two men wearing light blue hooded sweatshirts and masks banged on their instruments in unison, occasionally stopping to twirl for passersby. A petite blond woman who had spent the early part of the week blowing bubbles and driving circles in a U-Haul led the makeshift procession. She carried a sign that read “Perseverance For All Survivors.”
“I’m here for the truth, no matter what it is,” said Zakia Tuck.