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Jerry Sandusky trial to head to jury without testimony from the accused

With former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky not testifying in his own defense at his trial for child sex abuse, the jury faces with two alternatives: Believe the accusers – or not. Closing arguments are Thursday.


Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky exits the courthouse after the defense rested its case at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., Wednesday.

Nabil K. Mark/AP

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With closing arguments set for Thursday, the criminal trial to decide the fate of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky will go to the jury in record time: nine days.

The brevity seems to pale in comparison to the global attention on events starting in November, when Mr. Sandusky was arrested and charged with 52 counts related to the sexual molestation of 10 minors, all at-risk boys formerly in his charge as the leader of a charity organization designed to protect them. (The charges were later reduced to 51.)

The scandal not only tarnished the reputation of one of America’s most prestigious athletics program – and drew scrutiny to what appeared to be a coverup by top administration – but it also ended the legendary career of its beloved football coach, Joe Paterno, who died soon after.

As the nightmarish details of the alleged abuse emerged, it soon became clear that the subsequent trial would lack the complexities that force other high-profile trials drag to on for weeks or sometimes months: forensics, crime scene evidence, wiretaps, financial statements.

Instead, after nine days in the Centre County courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., the jury must decide between two accounts of events: one that paints Sandusky as a monster who preyed on young boys, and a second that depicts his affections not as sexual but rather as the result of a mental health disorder.

Once the case gets handed to the jury for deliberation, the task will be weighty, but the decision clear-cut, says Michael Scotto, a former criminal prosecutor in New York City: “You believe [the victims] or you don’t. There’s not a lot of nuance.”


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