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Monday, June 14, 2021

The Jerry Sandusky and The O.J. Simpson Trials: A Contrast in Style and Justice

     Compared to the 1995 O. J. Simpson double-murder trial, a mind-numbing TV soap opera that dragged on for nine months and ended in an acquittal, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual molestation trial, completed in less than three weeks, produced a verdict that made sense. Simpson had a battery of high-profile defense attorneys, who, like the prosecutors and the judge, played to the TV camera in one of the media capitals of the world. The Sandusky trial, held in a sleepy central Pennsylvania town, and not televised, did not last long enough (June 4 to June 22, 2012) for any of the court house participants other than Jerry Sandusky to become infamous. Most Americans were shocked and outraged by the Simpson acquittal. In the Sandusky case, people were relieved by the guilty verdict. The Simpson case represented everything that was wrong with our criminal justice system. While it took too long to bring Jerry Sandusky to justice, once he was arrested, the system worked the way it should. 

     Two days after the Centre County, Pennsylvania jury returned the Sandusky verdict, one of his attorneys, Joe Amendola, hinted of an appeal based upon the Sixth Amendment right to effective legal representation. Although Amendola won't be involved in the appellate process, he believed that Judge John Cleland did not give him and his co-attorney, Karl Rominger, enough time to prepare an adequate defense.

     While it is true that the seven months between the former coach's arrest and trial was, by the sluggish standards of American criminal justice, speedy, Amendola's argument had no merit.

     Attorney Joe Amendola claimed that he and attorney Karl Rominger needed more time to prepare Jerry Sandusky's defense. This begged the question: time to do what? To dig up more dirt on the eight young sexual abuse victims who took the stand for the prosecution? What dirt? All of these witnesses were credible and compelling because they were obviously telling the truth. Did the defense attorneys actually think the jurors would consider all of them liars? Did the defense need more time to find more character witnesses like the defendant's former Penn State coaching colleagues who told the jury they also liked to shower with young boys in the team's locker room?  Perhaps Mr. Amendola had in mind putting boys on the stand the defendant hadn't molested. This testimony would have been consistent with Sandusky's 2011 statement to NBC's Bob Costas that he hadn't molested all of the troubled kids he had helped through his youth organization, The Second Mile.

     In the Sandusky case there was no such thing as an adequate defense. At the close of the prosecution's case, the defense attorneys should have thrown their client to the mercy of the court, begged for some kind of plea deal. 

     In the Sandusky case, Attorney Amendola had nothing to complain about. Judge Cleland allowed the defense the jury they had asked for--twelve residents of Centre County, the home of Penn State University. In fact, eight of the jurors had direct or indirect associations with the school, the biggest employer in the region. If there was ever a trial ripe for jury nullification, it was this one. Moreover, it was fortunate for the defense that the jurors didn't learn about Matt Sandusky, the defendant's adopted son who later claimed he had been sexually molested by the coach.

     If there was a defect in the Sandusky defense it was the defendant. A dream team of defense attorneys, with all the time in the world could not have gotten this defendant off. Attorneys Joe Amendola and Karl Rominger did the best they could with what they had. The evidence against Sandusky was overwhelming, and suggested decades of sexual molestation, and hundreds of victims. Talk of an appeal in this case was ridiculous.
     Judge John Cleland, in July 2012, sentenced the convicted serial child molester to 30 to 60 years in prison.

1 comment:

  1. In order for pedophiles and pedophile rings to continue people stay silent. It's hard to believe no one knew or saw anything or suspected any of this activity. It's impossible to believe his wife knew nothing. In order to stop this horror to continue we need to stop turning our backs and look the other way. I pray we find better solutions to conquer these monsters.