Ending longstanding rumors to the contrary, the defense rested its case Wednesday in the child sex abuse trial of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky without calling Sandusky himself to testify. The trial recessed just before noon after his lawyers called three more witnesses to the stand.
ESPN reported that Sandusky was hoping to take the stand in his own defense, but was overruled by his attorneys. Court was recessed until 9 a.m. Thursday, when defense and prosecution lawyers will begin their closing arguments before handing the case to the jury. Lead defense attorney Joe Amendola had hinted at the possibility of Jerry Sandusky testifying, but the final decision wasn’t made until Wednesday. Sandusky is accused of abusing ten young boys over a 15-year period. He faces 51 counts of criminal child sexual abuse and more than 500 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Sandusky has denied all wrongdoing, as did his wife Dottie when she took the stand Tuesday in defense of her husband of 45 years. She testified that she knew nothing of the alleged abuse and heard no inappropriate noises from the basement, where some of the accusers claimed Sandusky had abused them, despite the alleged victims’ claims that they had screamed for help. The jury was also told of Sandusky’s tendency to compare himself to the movie character Forrest Gump. On Tuesday, the jury was read one of the former Penn State assistant coach’s “creepy” love letters, in which he admitted he was “oblivious” and “not too smart.” Here are the other major developments in the case on its final day of witness testimony:
One Second Mile participant accused police of attempting to manipulate his statements. The 11:47 a.m. recess came after a day of neither incident nor bombshell revelations. Two of the three witnesses were Second Mile participants who said they spent many nights with Sandusky but were never abused. David Hilton, now 21, told the jury he stayed at the Sandusky home more than 50 times without incident. Hilton also accused police of attempting to manipulate his witness statements. “I felt like they wanted me to say something that wasn’t true,” he testified. “They [wanted] to see if I’d slip up.” The defense has alleged that police troopers coaxed statements out of the alleged victims by divulging what other accusers said.
A local journalist was not called to testify. Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Sara Ganim, who won a local reporting award for breaking the news of Sandusky’s grand jury investigation in the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News in November 2011, was expected to testify after receiving a subpoena. The defense claimed that Ganim “contacted the mother of an alleged victim and provided her with contact information for an investigator in this case.” Ganim tweeted that she “would NOT have answered yes to that question. I would have declined to comment under Pa. Shield Law.”
The trial was expected to last three weeks. But by Judge John Cleland’s own admission, the case has progressed at a rapid pace. There were just four days of prosecution witnesses and a mere three days for defense testimony. Here’s a brief recap of the previous days of the trial:
Day One: The first victim to take the stand testified about “soap battles” and “play fighting” in the Penn State showers that escalated to oral sex.
Day Two: Crucial witness Mike McQueary testified that he got “three distinguishable looks” at the alleged abuse he saw in a Penn State locker room in 2001.
Day Three: One accuser testified that Sandusky had threatened him, telling the then 11-year-old boy he’d “never see [his] family again” if he spoke out against the alleged abuse.
Day Four: When Sandusky was confronted by one alleged victim’s mother, he told her: “I wish I were dead.”
Day Five: One charge was dropped against Sandusky, as a key statute wasn’t yet signed into law when the alleged abuse occurred.
Day Six: Dottie Sandusky, Jerry’s wife, took the stand to defend her husband. In doing so, she also maligned the characters of two of the accusers, calling one “clingy” and another “conniving.”