Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Blog posts March 2012

In the month or so since I last posted, there have been several developments in the child sex abuse case involving former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

The status of the case thus far is that a) the trial is scheduled to start May 14 in Centre County Court; b) a jury from Centre County will hear the case; c) the conditions of Sandusky's house arrest have been relaxed; d) the prosecution filed PAPERS containing more information about Sandusky's alleged assaults; and e) the defense wants even MORE information revealed.

Developments a, b and c came about following a hearing on February 10. The hearing didn't take all that long, and the judge made his rulings a few days later. Basically, he gave the defense pretty much everything they wanted - although he did stipulate that he would revisit the idea of bringing in a jury from outside Centre County if it proves too difficult to pick one from Centre County.

I also don't think the judge granted Sandusky everything he wanted in terms of easing the conditions of his house arrest. But, the judge is allowing Sandusky to have supervised contact with his grandchildren, a limited number of people can visit him at his house, and Sandusky is allowed to leave his house to meet with his lawyer. Considering what he's accused of, I think the fact that he's not in jail already is a pretty big bonus. But, maybe that's just me.

As far as the date of the trial is concerned, the judge set a date of May 14. That seems rather soon, so I wasn't surprised when the defense requested that it be pushed back until July. I was surprised, however, when the judge refused the request. Clearly this judge is not messing around.

So far, the defense seems willing to play this thing out as long as it can. For example, Sandusky gave up his right to a preliminary hearing, but he did so at the last minute, when lawyers, potential witnesses and media from all over were already in place and prepared for the hearing to proceed. I still believe that, in the end, Sandusky will cut a deal with prosecutors. But, so far, both sides are denying any talk of a plea bargain, so I don't expect one to come until just before - or maybe even during - the trial.

I guess what really fascinates me about the case is this: if the defense really does plan to take the case to trial, just what kind of defense are they trying to set up? After the hearing in February, Sandusky spoke for about five minutes outside the courthouse. It was a rather rambling statement dealing partly with his displeasure about being under house arrest. Sandusky expressed how unfair he felt it was that he couldn't go outside and throw biscuits to his dog.

The bizarre nature of the statement is in line with other ODD THINGS that Sandusky said in earlier interviews. The things he has said have been so strange and so poorly spoken that I - and, I'm sure, others - have wondered if Sandusky has some kind of mental issue. His lawyer, however, says no. He admits that Sandusky is taking medication but says that it's not for any kind of mental problem. (Of course, I suppose Sandusky could have a mental condition that he's "not" taking medication for.)

So, then, what is going on here? We have what appears to be a paradox: a man who spent his life surrounded by academia, yet who, on the face of it, at least, seems to have no comprehension of the trouble he is in. Can his denial be that deep, or did he manage to fool a lot of people for a lot of years about just how smart (or not) he really is?

The Patriot-News in Harrisburg recently published THIS article which asks that very question. The prevailing theory seems to be that Sandusky is a smart guy who, for some reason, believes that it's OK to shower with boys. And, when he says stuff that most people find outrageous, well, that's just Jerry being Jerry.

Unfortunately for Sandusky, "Jerry being Jerry" isn't likely to work as a defense strategy during a trial where alleged victim after alleged victim will come forward to tell their stories.

We're now back to where we started. What, exactly, is the defense strategy here? If you, as Sandusky's attorney, really do plan to take the case to trial, why do you keep letting him speak - especially if you're going to admit that he doesn't have any mental issues? Conversely, if you intend to plead out the case, why not just do it as quietly as possible?

The only thing that makes sense here, I think, is that the defense is doing everything it can to keep Sandusky out of prison for as long as possible. The more Sandusky talks, the more difficult it probably becomes to find jurors who either haven't heard what he's said or who can remain objective about it. So, perhaps the trial gets delayed if a jury can't be found in Centre County.

(I should point out that at the hearing on Feb. 10, it was the prosecution that initially asked for the change of venire. The defense countered with an argument in favor of having a jury from Centre County hear the case. Usually, those roles are reversed and it's the defense that pushes for an outside jury if it believes a local jury can't be fair. As I said earlier, the judge ruled for the defense and said every effort would be made to get a jury from Centre County. If the defense secretly suspects that won't be possible, then you can count asking for it as a delaying tactic)

Or, perhaps regardless of the medication issue, the defense will use Sandusky's statements as evidence that he's not mentally competent. In which case he might end up in an institution of some sort instead of a correctional facility.

In either case, whatever happens, it looks as though Sandusky's lawyer is determined to let Jerry be Jerry for as long as he possibly can.

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