If I Were on the Sandusky Jury
At about 6:30 p.m. last night, Jerry Sandusky’s lead prosecutor sat in the back row of the Centre County courthouse. Laughing and chatting, he wore his signature black sunglasses indoors. And then he thumbed through a smart phone and bolted with his team into a courthouse meeting room.
News had broken that Sandusky’s adopted son Matt was accusing Sandusky of abusing him. And then another report surfaced that a second alleged victim had stepped forward.
Inside a local Bellefonte bar, I watched CNN flash the latest developments on a plasma TV. A bartender tripped, her tray of a half dozen filled beer glasses shattered on the floor. Understaffed, she’d just taken an order from the courthouse for the Sandusky jury. Whoever called from the courthouse told her to make it quick: The jury was hungry. The jury was tired. The jury wanted to go home.
Sequestered, they were unaware of the news of these latest allegations. They didn’t know about the leaked Spanier emails. But everyone else now knew the Sandusky saga was far from over.
Reporters crowded the courtroom until 9:30 p.m. A dozen or so chatty locals gossiped in back about the latest developments. “It’s like watching Nancy Grace in-studio,” one middle-aged woman quipped to me. Crinkled newspapers, empty paper coffee cups and laptop chargers took over the courtroom. Everybody waited for a verdict.
At about 8:30 p.m., the jury returned. They asked Judge John Cleland if they could review Mike McQueary’s testimony. If I were on the Sandusky jury, I’m not sure I’d deem McQueary credible.
This is a man who is alleging he witnessed Jerry Sandusky sodomizing a young boy and can’t remember the correct date. This is a man, if he is to be believed, who looked in the eyes of this still nameless victim and then walked out on him. This is a man—a tall, athletic, former Penn State quarterback—who used his testimony in a pedophile case as a press conference, letting the world know that he wants to coach a football team. Even the prosecution came to his defense.
“Part of it was a small child, part of it was homosexual activity—all of this was so strange to him,” prosecutor Joe McGettigan told the jury about McQueary during his closing arguments. “You have to think about what happened to him that night.” Mike McQueary is not—and never was—a victim in this case. Surely the jury, having heard testimony from eight of the 10 alleged victims, knows that. So McQueary’s credibility problem helps the defense. How can you convict a man for raping a boy if you can’t trust the witness?
Furthermore, jurors were repeatedly reminded before they began deliberations that showering with boys is not a crime. And the way the defense and the prosecution framed the debate, it’s Dottie Sandusky’s word against that of the alleged victims.
As the headlines flashed on CNN, I wondered what Dottie must be thinking. Months—years, even—of supporting her husband culminated in one final testimony earlier this week in which she unwaveringly stuck by her man. Now, her adopted son says he was another victim.
Thursday morning before closing arguments, she said a prayer with her friends, who consoled her as she dabbed her eyes with a tissue. She rested her hand on the courtroom pew, her wedding ring on display. And as much as I wondered how could this woman have not known?, I thought about how much Dottie, with her puffy white hair, reminds me of my grandmother.
Maybe it was because she couldn’t look at her husband, except to throw him a half smile. Or maybe it was the way she sweetly apologized to prosecutor Joe McGettigan when she couldn’t recall dates of alleged abuse. Unlike so many at Penn State, she’s remained faithful not to an institution or a statue, but to a person: her husband. Despite the allegations, she chose him.
Now, will she choose her son or husband? That, of course, is not for the sequestered jury to decide. But if I were on the Sandusky jury—even if I trusted her—I wouldn’t give her the choice. If Jerry Sandusky is convicted on just a fraction of his 48 criminal charges, his jail sentence will likely last him the rest of his life.