BOB COSTAS: Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?
JERRY SANDUSKY: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?
BOB COSTAS: Yes.
JERRY SANDUSKY: Sexually attracted, you know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. But no, I'm not sexually attracted to young boys.
-- November 14, 2011 on "Rock Center" on NBC
As late as Tuesday evening, Jerry Sandusky had planned to testify at his trial on 51 counts of sex abuse against 10 different boys. He wanted the jury to hear his side of the story in his own words, but perhaps with memories of hearing Sandusky's clumsy, butchered interview transcribed above entered as evidence by the prosecution last week, Sandusky's defense team thought better of it.
And after the one day, Tuesday, in which the defense made any semblance of headway in trying to plant a reasonable doubt in one juror's head, Sandusky's attorney Joe Amendola decided to rest his case Wednesday morning.
Closing arguments from both sides will be heard starting at 8:00 am Central Time Thursday morning.
What does all of this mean? Well, let's break it down:
1. The most anticipated witness involved in this case (other than the late Joe Paterno), Sandusky himself, will not speak. The next time we hear from Jerry Sandusky, it will be in front of the press outside the courthouse after being found not guilty or (more likely) in some interview in a state prison with a major news outlet (assuming some old fashioned "prison justice" doesn't end his days on earth first).
How much good or harm to his own case that Sandusky could have done by testifying will always be debated. We know that in his two public opportunities to speak on these charges (the aforementioned NBC interview and an interview with The New York Times), he came across as unprepared and downright creepy. As Sandusky has maintained his innocence in the face of these charges, he would eventually have had to answer the question "Yes or no, did you (fill in name of sex act here) on Victim (number)?", and in turn, probably had to perjure himself to maintain a fraction of a percent chance of staying out of prison. Personally, I am sad we miss out on this.
2. We could know by the end of the week what Jerry Sandusky's future holds. The legal teams will make their closing arguments Thursday morning, and from there the jury should have everything they need to issue a verdict as early as Thursday afternoon. The jury will be sequestered at a nearby hotel so as not to be affected by outside influences. What had been expected to be a three-week case, could be over in from start to finish less than two weeks.
3. By having Sandusky waive his right to testify, the book can now be closed on what the defense strategy entails. It essentially consists of:
a) the portrayal of the victims, with their employment of civil attorneys fully disclosed, as a bunch of gold-digging liars;
b) the portrayal of Sandusky as a benevolent, generous soul with a soft spot for kids and a heart of gold, a line of defense that Sandusky's defense team attempted to corroborate with a parade of local residents telling stories of Sandusky's aiding young people in straightening out their lives;
c) an attempt to paint Sandusky's admitted acts, particularly showering with young boys, as normal and almost "ho-hum," with two former Penn State coaches saying that they routinely showered with young boys as well during their time in Happy Valley;
d) professional testimony from doctors that claim Sandusky suffers from something called "histrionic personality disorder":
The American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual calls histrionic personality disorder "a pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking" and "often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior" and rapidly shifting emotions.
The defense motion said people with the condition would not necessarily be grooming boys to molest them but instead might be trying to "satisfy the needs of a psyche" with the disorder.
"The jury should not be misled into believing these statements and actions are likely grooming when they are just as likely or more likely histrionic in origin," wrote defense attorney Karl Rominger in the June 11 filing.
e) finally, a bit of a gift from the police blooper gods came Tuesday, inadvertently recorded evidence that the local police (Corporal Joseph Leiter) may have strongly encouraged one of the victims into his graphic (albeit not necessarily untrue) testimony:
Leiter then addressed Victim No. 4.
"You're not the first," he said. "I've interviewed probably nine kids, nine other adults. And you're doing very well. It is amazing. If this was a book, you'd be repeating word for word what other people told us. And we know from these other young adults who talked to us that there is a pretty well-defined progression that he operated and he still operates to some degree.
"Often this progression goes on into a long period of time leading into more than just touching, there's been actual oral sex that's taken place by both parties and it is classified that an actual rape has occurred. I don't want you to feel that again.
"I don't want you to feel ashamed. You are a victim in this thing. What happened, happened. These types of things happen. We need you to tell us what happened. Again, we're not going to treat you any differently ... You are a victim of this crime.
"We need you to tell us as graphically as you can what took place. I just want you to know that you are not alone in this ... I just want you to understand you're not alone in this. By no means are you alone in this."
Victim No. 4: "I understand."
Leiter: "Okay, we're going to restart the recording. It is now 12:37. Again, we are going to continue the recording."
To make matters worse, when asked about discussing other victims' accounts of their relationships with Sandusky with Victim No. 4, the officers were not truthful, with two of them stating they had done no such thing.
It's precisely the opening that Amendola had been looking for over the last two weeks, a shoddy piece of legwork by the very people that are supposed to protect the welfare of the victims providing the slightest crack that maybe, just maybe Amendola can paint the monster Sandusky as the victim. And maybe one person on the jury of twelve will be sympathetic. Keep in mind, Sandusky only needs one juror to have a reasonable doubt about his guilt.
The odds that Amendola can pull this off are still long indeed. As material goes, from the get-go Amendola has been handed the evidential equivalent of the Charlotte Bobcats roster and been asked to go win 60 games. Success is a virtual impossibility.
But the venue for this trial favors Sandusky in that Centre County, PA is likely the only place on earth his defense team can find that one person on a jury of Sandusky's peers who has been waiting for the smallest reason to find a reasonable doubt that he committed these heinous crimes. Up until Tuesday, that juror was probably still waiting for that trigger event; the prosecution had been pitching a virtual shutout.
But Tuesday was a better day for Sandusky and Amendola. The police screw-up gave them something. So after a few more ancillary witnesses Wednesday morning, Amendola decided it was best to cash their chips in now. This would be as good as the sea of testimony would get for Jerry Sandusky.
One slightly mediocre day in a week and a half of disastrous days for the defense still shouldn't be enough to keep Sandusky out of prison for the rest of his life. But this is Penn State, and over the last seven months, we've seen a lot of things in State College that we never thought we'd see.
With half of the jury having ties to Penn State University, sadly, Sandusky walking away a free man doesn't feel totally out of play. It should, but it doesn't.
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