Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Andrea Constand returns to the courtroom after a recess on the sixth day of Bill Cosby's sexual-assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Penn., on April 16, 2018.DOMINICK REUTER/Reuters

It’s long been one of the most enduring mysteries of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case: What drug did he give his chief accuser on the night she says he molested her?

Cosby has insisted he handed 1 1/2 tablets of the over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine Benadryl to Andrea Constand to help her relax before their sexual encounter at his home outside Philadelphia more than a dozen years ago. Constand testified he gave her three small blue pills that left her incapacitated and unable to resist as he molested her.

A pair of drug experts – one for the prosecution, one for the defence – testified at the TV star’s retrial Thursday that paralysis isn’t known to be a side effect of Benadryl, though its active ingredient can cause drowsiness and muscle weakness, among other side effects.

And Cosby’s expert, Harry Milman, said he doesn’t know of any small blue pill that could have produced the symptoms that Constand described.

The “Cosby Show” star has previously acknowledged under oath he gave quaaludes – a powerful sedative and 1970s-era party drug that’s been banned in the U.S. for more than 35 years – to women he wanted to have sex with, but denied having them by the time he met Constand in the early 2000s.

Dr. Timothy Rohrig, a forensic toxicologist called by prosecutors, testified Thursday that quaaludes can make people sleepy. But he and Milman said the drug came in large white pills – not small and blue.

Prosecutors rested their case after Rohrig got off the witness stand. The defence immediately asked Judge Steven O’Neill to acquit Cosby and send jurors home, arguing prosecutors hadn’t proved aggravated indecent assault charges. O’Neill refused.

The defence also contended there’s no evidence to prove the alleged assault happened within the 12-year statute of limitations. Prosecutors countered that Constand and Cosby have both said the encounter was in 2004. Cosby was arrested in late 2015, just before the deadline to charge him.

As the legal wrangling continued, Thursday’s testimony focused on the drug taken by Constand, who has testified she thought they were an herbal supplement meant to relieve her stress.

Constand said Cosby called the pills “your friends” and told her they would “help take the edge off.”

She testified earlier this week that Cosby refused to tell her what they were when she confronted him about two months later. Her mother testified that Cosby told her in a January 2005 phone conversation that he’d have to look at a prescription bottle and would send the answer to her by mail.

She said he never did.

Cosby said in a subsequent police interview that he gave her Benadryl, then fondled her breasts and genitals. He said Constand never told him to stop.

Cosby, in a 2005 deposition read to jurors by a police detective, said he obtained seven prescriptions for quaaludes from his doctor in Los Angeles in the 1970s, ostensibly for a sore back, but added he did not use them himself because they made him tired.

He said he gave quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with, using them “the same as a person would say, ‘Have a drink.“’

Rohrig, the director of a regional forensic science centre and medical examiner’s office in Wichita, Kansas, called quaaludes “an old-timey sedative, hypnotic drug” that at one time were believed to be an aphrodisiac.

Quaaludes have been illegal in the U.S. since 1982. They’re still legal in Canada and parts of Europe, Rohrig said.

The Cosby camp dismissed the quaaludes talk.

“Quaaludes were not blue,” the comedian’s spokeswoman, Ebonee Benson, shouted to reporters after the experts’ testimony. “Today should be the last day the discussion of quaaludes is had regarding these accusations against Mr. Cosby.”

Benson said prosecutors want jurors to accept “a fabricated story about three small, blue pills” and believe that they’re “somehow quaaludes.”

The expert testimony came on the ninth day of Cosby’s retrial on sexual assault charges that could send the star to prison for years.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.

Interact with The Globe