In the wake of the Penn State child-rape scandal, former coach Jerry Sandusky has already been tried and convicted in the media. While the case against him seems to be pretty solid—based on the information that has come to light so far—a little perspective is still necessary.
In the United States of America, an accused person is considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a basic, core tenet of the legal system. No matter how damning the evidence might appear on first blush, the accused must be given his day in court to plead his case and the prosecution must successfully build their own case to prove the accused's guilt. With 12 alleged victims having now come forward, all with similar stories, it certainly looks like the case against Sandusky is building itself. And certainly, in a case which deals with hot button topics like pedophilia, child molestation and rape, emotions run very high.
Nevertheless, once a case winds up in the courtroom, anything can happen.
As we learned in the OJ Simpson murder trial, if the prosecution doesn't do its job and a talented enough defense team can create reasonable doubt through smoke and mirrors, acquittals do happen, even in the face of seemingly overwhelming evidence.
In the case of Kobe Bryant's rape trial, the victim refused to testify, resulting in the charges being dropped and no conviction.
In the grand scheme of things, it could be reasonably argued that justice was not served in either the Simpson or the Bryant case. However, neither case resulted in a guilty verdict and as far as the justice system is concerned, that is what matters.
And then there's the Duke lacrosse team. Not only had the three players named in the rape case been assumed guilty by the media, but the prosecution also committed a number of questionably legal maneuvers in an effort to convict these kids. The entire Duke lacrosse program was shut down for a year and the team's head coach was forced to resign. After a full year of being dogged by the media and labelled rapists, the charges were dropped, the lead prosecutor was disbarred, and the lacrosse program was reinstated.
The Jerry Sandusky case is no different from any of these examples. Yes, there currently appears to be a very strong case. Yes it appears that Sandusky repeatedly raped a number of children during his time at Penn State. Yes, there is no denying that when the concerns originally came up a decade ago, the Powers That Be at Penn State—from Joe Paterno all the way up the line—did not do enough to protect the kids and see to it that the claims were adequately addressed. But will all this put Sandusky behind bars?
Only time—and a trial—will tell.
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