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Sandusky juror on guilty verdict: ‘It’s the beginning of our time to heal’

On Sunday, Joshua Harper attended services at the Keystone Church and Ministries to pray, he said, for healing to begin in this tightknit community .

As Juror No. 5 in the trial of Jerry Sandusky, Harper had seen how the case had unraveled this rural town. Harper and 11 other jurors ruled Friday that Sandusky was guilty of 45 counts related to sexually abusing boys.

“It feels good to expose something that was covered up,” said Harper, 31. “It’s a statement that there needs to be accountability and change. It’s the beginning of our time to heal.”

Harper, a physics and chemistry teacher at Bellefonte Area High School, said that before the trial he had admired Sandusky. As a Penn State University alumnus, he knew that Sandusky had been a longtime assistant football coach under Joe Paterno and that he had founded a respected charity for underprivileged children.

During the trial, however, he said, his impression of Sandusky changed.

“The testimony after testimony of the victims was very convincing,” Harper said, noting that he and the other jurors observed a common thread concerning how Sandusky “groomed” each victim with gifts and attention. “That was pivotal.”

When the victims took the stand, Harper said, he observed Sandusky lean forward in his seat with a “wistful expression on his face.”

“There was definitely a creepy factor,” he added.

Had Sandusky taken the stand, Harper said, his testimony would have had little effect on the jury’s outcome.

“I don’t think he could have said anything with any credibility,” Harper said. “He has every reason to lie, and these kids — these victims — why would they lie? Why would they say these horrible things happened to them?”

By 8 p.m. Friday, Harper and his fellow jurors alerted Judge John Cleland that they were close to reaching a verdict. He said some of the jurors became emotional and that tears welled in their eyes.

Harper said he watched Sandusky’s face as the foreman read the verdict.

“It seemed to me that he accepted it, that he knew it was true,” Harper said. “He looked guilty. There was no shock, no surprise.”

In the jury room after court had been adjourned, Harper said the jurors learned for the first time that Sandusky’s adopted son, Matt, had been prepared to testify against his father as a victim of sexual abuse.

“Had Matt Sandusky testified it would have been a slam dunk then,” Harper said. “That gave us confidence in our minds that we made the right decision.”

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.

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