Abby Drey / Centre Daily Times via AP
Joe Amendola, left, attorney for Jerry Sandusky, loads boxes of files into his car after the trial adjourned Thursday.
At the end of the first week of Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse trial, the prosecution's case is nearly done. The defense case will begin Monday. For a number of reasons, the defense has a very difficult task in overcoming the evidence presented.
No one thought the prosecution's case was weak going into this trial and it wasn't. There were eight witnesses who claimed that Sandusky had inappropriate contact with them -- from bizarre hugging in the Penn State showers to much more serious and disturbing conduct. There were two independent witnesses: Mike McQueary, the then-graduate assistant football coach who said he saw Sandusky in the shower with a boy, and the janitor whose colleague allegedly said he saw Sandusky performing oral sex on a boy in the shower. And then there were Sandusky's own words in letters to one of his accusers and a bizarre contract with one of the alleged victims calling on him to pay the boy to spend time with Sandusky.
After witnesses testified that Jerry Sandusky molested them, lawyers for the former Penn State assistant football coach will begin presenting their case to jurors on Monday. NBC's John Yang reports.
So far during this trial, however, Joe Amendola has done a very good job representing his client.
A lawyer is only as good as his case and this was a case that had to go to trial. The state could not offer Sandusky anything short of an effective life sentence. If convicted of just one of the most serious offenses against even one of the victims, Sandusky must serve a minimum of 10 years, with a possible maximum of 40. There are six victims for whom offenses carrying 10-year mandatory minimums are charged. Then there are a variety of other charges. No doubt if convicted of all the offenses, the judge will order some of the sentences to run concurrently, but theoretically Sandusky could be ordered to serve more than 500 years. The state could not have make an offer that would be anything less than a life sentence. Amendola had to go to trial, regardless of the strength of the prosecution's case.
But Amendola's case is not that strong. And he had a difficult task of cross-examining victims who allege molestation. Throughout the trial, he did a wonderful job of confronting the alleged victims with problems with their testimony without alienating the jury by attacking them. This is a difficult tight rope to walk and he did so admirably.
He also exposed some real problems with some of their testimony.
Most of the victims have changed their story -- some of them since their grand jury testimony, which was made public in November. Some of the victims continued to have friendly relationships with Sandusky as adults, years after the alleged abuse. A number of them testified that they remembered new details, or changed their view of Sandusky, only upon reflection or after counseling. One testified he became angry with Sandusky for the first time when Sandusky cut off contact with him. Finally, Amendola did a very nice job in demonstrating that physical evidence corroborating the final victim's story was missing and that this victim claimed to have been the only boy at Sandusky's house during a period when other alleged victims also claimed to have been there.
These problems with the victims' testimony, well-developed by the defense, will likely not be enough to overcome the prosecution's case. The number of victims, the independent witnesses, and the defendant's own words appear to make anything other than a conviction on a number of these counts a very remote possibility.
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