Feature

Sandusky presents his defense

Lawyers for Jerry Sandusky attempted to show that his work with boys was motivated by altruism, not sexual attraction.

Lawyers for Jerry Sandusky attempted this week to portray the former Penn State assistant football coach as an overly affectionate but misunderstood pillar of the community, whose work with boys was motivated by altruism, not sexual attraction. Dottie Sandusky, his wife of 45 years, took the stand in support of her husband, who denies 51 criminal counts of abusing 10 boys over a 15-year span. She testified that boys often stayed the night as guests in their home, but denied there was ever any improper contact. A psychologist for the defense argued that Sandusky’s overly demonstrative behavior toward children in his charge was due to a “histrionic personality disorder,” while 11 of Sandusky’s friends and former colleagues testified to his good character. Sandusky is said to have wanted to testify on his own behalf, but his lawyers reportedly overruled him. The case now goes to the jury. 

“The coach who excelled in defense has put up a negligible one in court,” said Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. The willfully naïve testimonies of Sandusky’s wife and friends only served to emphasize “the grim mystery” at the center of this trial: how everyone from Dottie Sandusky to Penn State coach Joe Paterno could “turn a blind eye to Sandusky’s aberrant and abhorrent behavior toward vulnerable boys.” 

Any hope Sandusky had of escaping a guilty verdict was undone completely by the “last-minute, hocus-pocus histrionic stuff” peddled by the defense psychologist, said Rich Hofmann in the Philadelphia Daily News. The prosecution’s expert witness ably discredited those claims, adding his own opinion that Sandusky has a psychosexual disorder. “This case really is over.” 

It was over last week, said Emily Bazelon in Slate.com. The grim, emotional testimonies of Sandusky’s victims already showed him to be “clearly (and monstrously) guilty.” After the all-but-inevitable verdict comes down, Sandusky should finally “admit to the wrongs the evidence unalterably shows he committed.” It’s the least he could do for the victims whose childhoods he destroyed.

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