The jurors in the sexual abuse trial began their deliberations Thursday after hearing vastly different portrayals of the former Penn State assistant football coach. Jerry Sandusky's attorney told jurors there was "not one piece of physical evidence," while prosecutors asked that Sandusky receive "the justice he really deserves." NBC News' Michael Isikoff reports from Bellefonte, Pa.
Updated at 9:24 p.m. ET: Jurors in the child sexual abuse trial of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky deliberated for more than seven hours Thursday without reaching a verdict.
Deliberations were scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. ET Friday in Centre County Court in Bellefonte, Pa., where Sandusky is charged with 48 counts alleging that he abused 10 boys over 15 years. Three other counts were dropped early Thursday.
Judge John Cleland said the jurors had asked to rehear the testimony of two key prosecution witnesses: former Penn State assistant coach Michael McQueary, who testified that he overheard Sandusky having sex with a young boy in a football locker room shower, and Jonathan Dranov, a family friend who testified that McQueary told him about incident. Those arrangements were to be worked out Friday morning.
The jury began its deliberations about 1:30 p.m. ET and worked straight through the afternoon and early evening, for nearly 7½ hours, following closing arguments in which they heard two starkly different descriptions of the case against Sandusky.
The prosecution and the defense clashed over defense attorney Joseph Amendola's suggestion that the entire case was a conspiracy among police, prosecutors and the alleged victims and their lawyers, in hopes of a big payday in future civil trials.
"The system" prejudged Sandusky and "set out to convict him" even though the case against him makes no sense, Amendola said.
But Deputy Pennsylvania Attorney General Joseph McGettigan, the lead prosecutor, argued that it defied common sense to believe the police and court systems would have conspired to bring down a figure as beloved in the community as Sandusky, the former longtime defensive coordinator for Penn State's nationally famous football team and founder of the Second Mile charity for troubled children.
"What would we gain?" he asked.
Sandusky, 68, was charged in two grand jury indictments that accused him of having used his connection to one of the nation's premier college football programs to "groom" the 10 boys for sexual relationships.
Eight of the 10 alleged victims testified during the trial. Another whom the jury never heard from was Sandusky's adopted son Matt, whose lawyers said Thursday afternoon — after deliberations had begun — that he, too, had been abused by Sandusky.
Sources told NBC News that Matt Sandusky's potential rebuttal testimony was why Sandusky chose not to testify in his own defense. (NBC News and msnbc.com generally do not identify victims of sexual assaults, but Sandusky chose to identify himself in a public statement released through his attorneys.)
"No one wins in this case. This is awful no matter what happens," Amendola said during the closing defense argument. "If Jerry Sandusky did this — if he did this — he should rot in jail. Bless his heart, that's my feeling.
"But what if he didn't do this? His life is destroyed."
Amendola repeated the phrases "it doesn't make sense" and "does that make sense?" like mantras throughout his 75-minute closing statement, highlighting what he said were inconsistencies and logical impossibilities in the evidence against Sandusky.
"All these alleged charges only go back to the mid-'90s, so out of the blue, after all these years, when Mr. Sandusky is in his mid-50s, Mr. Sandusky decides to become a pedophile? Does that make sense to anybody? Does that make sense?"
Amendola accused the eight men who testified that Sandusky had abused them as children of seeking to cash in on eventual civil trials against his client.
"We can understand these kids now want to be compensated — the lawyers want to make all these dollars — but it still doesn't mean Mr. Sandusky did this," he said.
Amendola also accused investigators of having coached the alleged victims to say what they wanted to hear because they had already decided to ignore possible evidence that Sandusky was innocent.
"The system decided Mr. Sandusky was guilty, and the system set out to convict him," he said, focusing on the testimony of two state investigators whose testimony appeared to be contradictory.
But McGettigan contended that the holes the defense poked in the case were, in fact, proof that there was no collusion.
"Everybody would have had to have been on the same page. Not so," he said.
McGettigan said it was easy for the defense to claim a conspiracy when "you don't name them. You just say 'the system.'"
But he said "the system" is made up of real people, in this case dozens of them who all wopuld have had to be in collusion for the last 15 years: the 10 alleged victims, the 24 grand jurors, the investigators, the arresting officers, corroborating witnesses like Sandusky's former colleague Michael McQueary, social services professionals, and McGettigan and his co-prosecutors themselves.
"If you conclude there's a conspiracy, someone bring handcuffs in for me and ... anyone else involved," McGettigan said, before concluding:
"What you should do is come out and say to the defendant that he molested, abused and assaulted (the alleged victims). He knows he did it, and you know he did it.
"Give him the justice he really deserves. Find him guilty of everything.
Three more charges dismissed
Sandusky originally was charged with 52 counts, but Cleland, who had previously dismissed one of them, threw out three more Thursday morning.
Two were charges alleging involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with one of the 10 alleged victims, which Cleland said the evidence didn't support. Had the jury convicted Sandusky on those two counts, Cleland said, he would have been required to set the convictions aside.
The third count was a duplicate of another count, he ruled.
Sandusky made no comment as he arrived at court Thursday morning with his wife, Dottie, who testified Tuesday that she never heard or saw her husband engage in any inappropriate behavior with children during their 45 years of marriage.
Sandusky had been widely expected to testify Wednesday before his lawyers abruptly rested their case after a lengthy conference in the judge's chambers.
A source close to Sandusky said "there was no one factor that led to the decision," but NBC News reported Thursday that Sandusky decided not to testify after his lawyers were warned that prosecutors would call his adopted son, Matt, as a rebuttal witness if he did so. The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told NBC News that Matt Sandusky was prepared to deliver damaging testimony about his father.
NBC's Savannah Guthrie discusses why the prosecution didn't call Jerry Sandusky's adopted son as a witness if he was able to provide damaging evidence.
In his final instructions, Cleland told jurors that they had great leeway in determining whether Sandusky's alleged behavior, while possibly troubling, may not have been criminal.
For example, he said, "it's not necessarily a crime for a man to take a shower with a boy. It's not necessarily a crime for a man to wash a boy's hair or lather his back or shoulders or to engage in back rubbing."
The bottom line was Sandusky's intent, "not the child's reaction," he told the jurors, who heard eight of the 10 alleged victims testify that they were traumatized by Sandusky's alleged advances.
In other words, "you must distinguish a display of innocent affection from lust," Cleland instructed.
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