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June 26, 2012

Our Opinion: Much work remains to be done after Sandusky decision

NEW CASTLE — Here are a few observations regarding the Jerry Sandusky trial:

•We think the prosecution deserves praise for presenting a case that provided details, but didn’t overwhelm the jury. The only thing worse than sitting on a jury and hearing a case involving multiple victims of sexual abuse is having that trial and testimony extend for weeks.

The case against Sandusky, a former Penn State University assistant football coach, had the potential to go on interminably, with expert witnesses angling for advantage.

Instead, the case was pared down to the basics, with testimony from the victims and a few eyewitnesses. In the end, this is all the jurors really needed.

Sometimes, prosecutors develop a “kitchen-sink” approach to criminal trials, hoping that if they throw everything they have at a defendant, something will stick. But this tactic may confuse and frustrate jurors. Keep it simple is good general advice both inside and outside a courtroom.

•Prior to the trial, there were considerable concerns about a jury selected from Centre County. Sandusky’s attorneys believed their client would get a better reception from a local panel.

But if these jurors had any sympathy for Sandusky, it was hard to spot.

From what we can tell, the jurors did their jobs. They dutifully went about the task of reviewing the evidence and discussing the charges, coming up with a verdict after an appropriate degree of deliberation.

This was a difficult case for jurors to hear, not only because of the types of charges involved, but also because of how it impacted the local community. This jury acted admirably under trying circumstances.

•Last week’s verdict marked the end of a major part of the Sandusky saga. However, there is much to come.

Sandusky must be sentenced. There also will be an appeal, but it’s difficult to envision a court overturning this verdict.

Meanwhile, the prosecutions continue. Sandusky may face additional charges, while at least two people affiliated with Penn State are to be tried on allegations they failed to act on information related to Sandusky’s conduct. A probe of these and other matters is ongoing, so more people may be charged as well.

And, of course, Penn State faces multiple civil suits from Sandusky’s victims. The university’s goal is to settle those suits as quickly and as quietly as possible, as a means of getting beyond this horrific episode.

For the average individual, the case of Jerry Sandusky remains as surrealistic as ever. It is difficult to imaging that someone of his stature could have harmed so many people for so long with so little effort on the part of others to stop it.

But it did happen. And a lot of healing must now take place.

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