Faced with gut-twisting testimony, one wonders how Sandusky will respond

by | National Columnist

In a court rendering, Sandusky (right) and his defense team listen to Victim 1 testify. (AP)  
In a court rendering, Sandusky (right) and his defense team listen to Victim 1 testify. (AP)  

After only a few hours of the Jerry Sandusky trial in Pennsylvania, I'm already feeling: a) a need to wash my eyes vigorously with whatever abrasive is at hand; b) the knowledge that it's only been a few hours, and nothing is certain until it is certain; but most of all, c) the predictive power of the line at the end of the original version of The Producers, when Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder await the verdict of the jury, which comes back as, "We find the defendants incredibly guilty."

Sandusky has never looked innocent during this process, to the point that nobody has been able to come up with a coherent theory that would even explain the evidence as anything but damnation in Costco-sized proportions.

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But trials aren't won after the first nauseating blanch, at least not if you've got yourself a good lawyer. And we cast no aspersions on Sandusky's lawyer, Joe Amendola. We acknowledge this case is overwhelmingly tilted toward the prosecution's version of events, and that Sandusky might need the intervention of a Pacquiao-Bradley-level verdict to escape conviction.

We've already endured the Roger Clemens trial, which has had more than its share of bucket-grabbing moments and is now reaching its unsatisfying conclusion, whatever it may be.

But the Sandusky trial opened with this quote from an alleged victim: "He treated me like a son in front of other people. Aside from that, he treated me like his girlfriend."

The number of ways in which that is outrageous is difficult to figure in one sitting. Indeed, after hearing that, it is hard to view Victim No. 4, as he is known, as anything even remotely approaching "alleged."

But here is where we have to force ourselves to stop. While everything we have heard and are likely to hear makes us think Sandusky is a monstrous figure, and that Penn State's power structure tried to figure out ways to escape responsibility for not intervening, trials are funky things. If you're paying attention at all, trying to take the evidence as presented rather than as you want it to be, you will change your mind several times.

And indeed, maybe Amendola has a case prepared to top all other cases. You bet against a skilled lawyer only at your peril.

But this case is unusual in that there has never been a case made even in the court of public opinion for Sandusky. There have been plenty of explanations made for Joe Paterno, and that is a separate debate for another hunk of bandwidth on another day -- but none for Sandusky.

Truthfully, his position in the public's mind is not guilty-or-not-guilty, but just how many times he's been guilty. And with the jury, even a jury with noteworthy links to the Penn State conglomerate, that's going to be a hard ratio to overcome.

We think, anyway.

The prosecution could deliver an idiotic case. Amendola could be Clarence Darrow's direct descendant. Hell, maybe Sandusky is innocent and despite the weight and horror of the charges has just made no effort whatsoever to clear his name.

But that's probably not the way to bet. Yet. And as the prosecution heaps evidence onto testimony, it will look worse and worse to those who can resist the urge to avert their eyes.

And also, once they heard "He treated me like his girlfriend," their ears.


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