Seven women and five men have begun jury deliberations that could either convict Jerry Sandusky or vindicate the former Penn State assistant football coach of the child sexual abuse charges against him.
The jury began considering testimony and evidence after receiving instructions from Judge John Cleland and following closing arguments in the case Thursday morning.
“We all rely on your integrity and your good judgment,” Cleland told the jurors. “You must decide what acts he did, if any, with the intentions to satisfy his own sexual desire.”
Cleland instructed jurors that a “suspicion of guilt” is not enough to arrive at a guilty verdict.
“You may believe he exercised poor judgment, but poor judgment in itself does not warrant criminality,” he said.
Each juror received a list of the accusers and the alleged crimes, a worksheet with questions they must answer in order to reach a verdict, and a verdict slip before going behind closed doors.
They will be sequestered until they reach a decision. They will be put up in a local
hotel, each in their own room, but the televisions and phones will be
turned off and they cannot take any electronic devices with them.
Cleland told jurors they can
deliberate on their own schedule, but only when they are all in the designated courtroom. Court employees have been told to prepare
for working this weekend if no verdict is reached by Friday evening.
is not for you to decide that Mr. Sandusky is a good or bad person,” Cleland
told jurors. “You
sit here as the legal conscious of the community because we live under
the rule of law and Mr. Sandusky is a citizen.”
Cleland released one of the alternate jurors, but two are required to remain. They will be sequestered
separately from the others and are not allowed to discuss the case. If they are needed, the jury will have to start deliberations over again.
Jurors will have to weigh four days often graphic and sometimes emotional testimony from prosecution witnesses, including eight accusers who described a range of sexual abuse at Sandusky's hands, against the word of defense witnesses who questioned the motives of the accusers and the handling of the investigation into a once-revered coach with a long reputation for helping at-risk children.
The jury must consider 48 criminal counts for the alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years, including 15 first-degree felony counts each punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Sandusky was initially charged with 52 counts, but prosecutors willingly withdrew on charge related to the accuser known as Victim 7 mid-trial and Cleland on Thursday tossed three additional charges involving the accuser referred to as Victim 4.
Prosecutors accuse the ex-coach of abusing 10 boys over 15 years in his home, in locker room showers, and at hotels. While presenting their case last week, they called to the stand 22 witnesses, including eight young men who spoke of abuse that included grooming and kissing to fondling, oral sex and sodomy after meeting Sandusky through The Second Mile charity he founded.
A former graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, told jurors he saw Sandusky standing against the back of a 10- to 12-year-old boy who had his hands up against the shower wall. He said Sandusky's arms were wrapped around the boy's midsection and told jurors he witnessed “slow movement from Sandusky's midsection.”
The defense case consisted mainly of character witnesses who defended Sandusky's reputation, a psychologist who said Sandusky has a personality disorder, and the ex-coach's wife, who said she did not see her husband do anything inappropriate with the accusers.
Sandusky's lawyers also showed that a state police investigator shared information about other accusers with at least one alleged victim. Other defense witnesses raised doubts about the accusers' credibility and motivations.
Dr. Jonathan Dranov, among the first to hear McQueary's report of Sandusky and a boy in the showers, provided jurors with a different account. He testified that McQueary said he saw a boy in the shower before an arm reached around to pull him out of view, and later saw Sandusky emerge from the showers.
The 68-year-old Sandusky could spend the rest of his life in state prison if convicted. He has repeatedly denied the allegations, but did not testify in his own defense.