Opening statements are scheduled to begin Monday morning. The trial could be wrenching: Some of Sandusky’s alleged victims, heretofore referred to only by number (“Victim 1,” “Victim 2”), are expected to take the stand and add faces and voices and raw human emotion to the prosecution’s case against him.
Sandusky, 68, has been accused of preying on 10 boys over the course of 15 years. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
There are broader issues beyond the question of his guilt or innocence. It is unclear whether the trial will start to bring closure to the Sandusky story or instead reopen wounds and reveal deeper dysfunction in the sometimes insular Penn State community. Numerous official investigations into the matter remain open, including state and federal probes, and civil litigation could lie ahead.
The shocking grand jury report that set off this case in November, at the height of football season, declared that Sandusky had molested eight boys (two more alleged victims were identified later) and suggested that university officials, including legendary head coach Joe Paterno, had failed to take enough action to stop him.
The scandal quickly cost the jobs of Paterno, the winningest coach in major-college football history, and Graham Spanier, Penn State’s president of 16 years. Two administrators were charged with failure to report suspected child abuse and lying to the grand jury. Paterno died in January, an icon whose final months were tarnished by the scandal.
Last week the university issued a statement saying it hoped that “the legal process will start to bring closure to the alleged victims and families whose lives have been irrevocably impacted and that they can begin the healing process.”
Despite the psychological pain felt by this community, Sandusky did not want to be tried somewhere far away. He wanted to take his chances with people here in Centre County, where he worked nearly his entire life.
It took less than two days to assemble a jury that seems to mirror the community: 10 women and six men, all white by appearance, with more than half reporting a strong connection to the university, by far the county’s largest employer.
“We’re in Centre County. We’re in rural Pennsylvania,” Judge John M. Cleland said in court Tuesday, when defense attorneys objected to a juror who knows the father of a potential key witness. “There are these [connections] that cannot be avoided.”
The trial is expected to last as long as three weeks. As with other sex abuse cases, it will turn largely on the testimony of alleged victims of and witnesses to the abuse. A key witness may be Mike McQueary, a former assistant coach who told a grand jury that more than a decade ago he saw Sandusky sexually assault a young boy in a locker-room shower.