To the credit of we the media and the American people at large, we didn’t dub this “The Trial of the Century.”
Perhaps it’s because we still can’t believe those LAPD officers who beat Rodney King on videotape walked out of a suburban LA courtroom two decades ago free men.
Perhaps it’s because we still can’t believe an old, blood-soaked glove that did not fit was enough to acquit O.J.
Perhaps it’s because we still can’t believe the young mother who partied with friends while her daughter was “missing” walked out of a Florida jail less than two weeks after the end of her controversial trial.
Whatever the reason, no one seemed to hype the Jerry Sandusky trial. It was too awful to hype. The fact was stranger than fiction. We just wanted it over.
And so, less than eight months after police in central Pennsylvania arrested the former Penn State assistant football coach a week after his old boss became Division 1 football’s winningest coach and on a Nittany Lion open date, Sandusky again walked to a police car in handcuffs. This time out the side door of a courthouse and off to jail, having been convicted on 45 of 48 counts in his child sex abuse case.
Despite other trials that seemed slam dunks and went a much different direction, we were all pretty sure of how this would turn out and confident it would happen as we expected. We knew the evidence was too strong. We knew the stories were too true, as painful as they were for the victims and witnesses to tell.
A jury of seven women and five men agreed. Their verdicts late last night allow us to remove words like alleged, accused and suspected from discussions of Sandusky. That’s one of the amazing things about the American criminal justice system. The decision of the jury is defining and binding, pending appeals, of course. So Sandusky is no longer an accused child rapist. He is a child rapist. He is the monster we suspected. It’s true, because that jury in Bellefonte, PA, says it is.
It is the verdict we wanted and needed, but as the mother of one of the victims said last night, there are no winners in this. Sandusky will likely die in prison. The young men he abused will have to deal with what happened long after he is gone. Penn State continues to pick up the pieces of its once proud reputation. And we as viewers of this great American tragedy must try to make sense of the absolute senseless.
But for now, at least, even the most skeptical likely have a renewed faith in “the system.” But that faith may be fleeting. This saga is long from over. Sandusky’s attorney made that clear last night.
Joe Amendola may go down in history as one of the worst lawyers in a high-profile case in modern American history for the things he said and did in public, but he believes he has legitimate grounds for appeal. The judge would not grant the Sandusky team a continuance, bringing this case to a rapid close. That judge also allowed heresay testimony; third-party accounts of what a one-time Penn State janitor, his mind too riddled with dementia now to testify, told other people he saw Sandusky do to a child.
Personally, I think Sandusky’s best chance for appeal may be to argue inadequate counsel. After all, Amendola reportedly was the one who offered Bob Costas that now legendary phone interview with Sandusky on national TV. You know, the one where Sandusky had to think before hemming and hawing about whether he is sexually attracted to young boys? That was perhaps the most significant nail in the proverbial coffin, as far as the court of public opinion goes. And the strange decisions and comments by the attorney continued from there.
Regardless, Sandusky now sits in a jail cell, where he’ll wait until September for a sentencing hearing. It will likely include more painful statements from victims about the horrors he inflicted on them, whether in a locker room shower, the dungeon of deviate behavior that was Sandusky’s basement or anywhere else. The minimum sentence for his crimes is reportedly 60 years. It doesn’t seem enough, despite it being a life sentence for the 68-year-old.
For now, we all wait to see if the verdicts will stand. Or will Amendola somehow prove his legal skills, leaving so many of us questioning the legal system once again?
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