Click HERE to watch today’s episode of The CrimeLine, where Jon Leiberman and I discuss the latest in the Jerry Sandusky trial. The prosecution rested their case last week, and in the two days of the defense I’ve seen so far, I’ve noticed a four-fold approach by lead defense attorney Joseph Amendola.
First, the defense is trying to discredit the witnesses, specifically Victim 4 and Victim 1, and paint the picture that both men are embellishing their stories and lying about their accusations of abuse. It’s a risky move by the defense, as these victims already have the sympathy of jurors, with some jurors even crying as they testified last week. On Monday, the defense had a former youth counselor testify that Victim 4 had a very close relationship with Jerry Sandusky. Just because they were close, doesn’t mean Sandusky wasn’t abusing him. This tactic of trying to discredit Victim 4 continued Tuesday as a supposed “friend” of Victim 4 testified that he had been known to embellish and lie in the past.
Finally, the biggest blow to Victim 4 and the prosecution was when the defense played a recording of investigators talking with Victim 4 in which they can be heard telling him “you are a victim” and about other accusers who have come forward. The defense is trying to prove that investigators posed leading questions and coached/groomed him to embellish his story. However, these same investigators also testified that Victim 4 had crawled into the fetal position on the floor at one point during the investigation because he was so upset. Does that sound like the behavior of someone who is making it up? The reason why the defense is so focused on attacking the credibility of Victim 4 is because, like I said before, he is key to Sandusky’s conviction. Victim 4 has the only physical evidence in the case so far, the love letters written by Sandusky, which could be just the physical evidence some jurors are looking for to convict him.
The defense also attacked the credibility of Victim 1 Tuesday by putting his former neighbor on the stand. The neighbor testified that Victim 1′s mother had boasted of getting a big house and a new jeep when the case is over, with the defense trying to prove he was financially motivated and that’s why he’s making these accusations.
The second strategy the defense is using is to try to explain Sandusky’s behavior, specifically the love letters he wrote to Victim 4, by claiming he suffers from Histrionic Personality Disorder. An expert psychologist took the stand Tuesday to testify the letters convinced him Sandusky indeed has HPD, a disorder he described as causing one to ”act out to get attention, act seductively, crave intimacy” and that those with HPD “can make people uncomfortable by hugging with ardor.” Even if jurors are convinced Sandusky suffers from HPD, that doesn’t negate the fact that he allegedly committed criminal actions, so to me this defense isn’t helpful. It could explain the letters, but letters titled “The BJ Story” and ones that read “I’m sorry for my mistakes” can only be interpreted as consistent with Victim 4′s accusations in my opinion.
Another strategy is to claim that yes, Jerry Sandusky showered with boys, but he didn’t do anything criminal. To this point, the defense put two Penn State coaches on the stand Monday who testified they showered with boys in the locker room too. I call this the Michael Jackson “I only shared a bed with boys” defense. Sandusky’s defense is trying to claim that in his mind, it was appropriate to shower with these boys, and that while he showered with them, the rest of the accusations are embellishments. Again, I don’t think jurors will buy this defense given the overwhelming testimony from eight different accusers claiming Sandusky did more than shower with them. If anything, this defense only hurts Penn State and makes it look worse because two other coaches have admitted to inappropriate behavior. This defense could piss off jurors and make them feel like Sandusky is further tarnishing the reputation of the school.
The final strategy is to put up character witness after character witness to testify that Jerry Sandusky is a good guy who is not capable of committing the crimes these accusers allege. On Tuesday morning, the defense put up 11 witnesses in only 65 minutes, including friends, colleagues and even a former New York Jets linebacker to testify that Sandusky is a good man, many admired him, were inspired by him, and that many trusted him around their kids. The main character witness was Dottie Sandusky, who testified her husband tried to help these boys, many of whom had behavioral problems. Dottie testified she never saw inappropriate conduct between her husband and the accusers and, sadly, never heard screams from the basement. She even testified that victim 1 was “demanding and conniving” and that another was “very clingy.” It’s hard for me to believe Dottie never saw or heard anything inappropriate when the accusers claim much of the abuse was going on in her own home, but sometimes people see & believe only what they want to.
The big question now is will Jerry Sandusky himself take the stand? Any good defense attorney would advise him not to, as he could only make things worse. The prosecution will be ready to pounce if he takes the stand. And if his past interviews, including the recently released footage from Bob Costas, are any indication he could end up admitting to the crimes on the stand. I mean, in the Costas footage just released, he actually said ”I didnt go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs…there are many that I didn’t have…I hardly had any contact with.” That sounds a lot like a confession to me. However, Sandusky, especially if he craves attention, may very well want to take the stand and tell his side of the story. At this point, he may not have much to lose since the prosecution’s case was so strong he’s likely facing a life behind bars regardless. Either way, as the defense wraps its case Wednesday, I’ll be watching closely. Stay tuned for more updates.