The moment of truth is about to begin for Jerry Sandusky with the defense weighing whether he should take the stand in his own defense. After hearing the sexually sordid and heart wrenching testimony of eight victims, the defense will have to come up with a plan to keep Sandusky out of jail. Hearing the testimony of eight victims, the jury could be thinking by now where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. The defense has called on character witnesses such as Penn State coaches to testify that they saw him take showers with boys and saw nothing wrong. Obviously, the argument will be made by the prosecution that they are protecting a friend. So what are the defense team’s options to save Jerry Sandusky?
Right now, it looks as if Sandusky’s defense is trying to throw stuff up against a wall and hope something sticks. First, it looks like they want to impress the jury that Sandusky is a nice guy—just one of the boys. Then, the defense is playing up the fact that most of the victims have lawyers and want money out of this sordid tale. They are also alleging that Sandusky has a histrionic personality. That’s like saying the devil made me do it. It’s rarely used in this context. The definition according to the American Psychiatric Association diagnostic manual is “a pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking” that is “often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior” and rapidly shifting emotions.
Dr. Elliott Atkins, a forensic and clinical psychologist testified on Tuesday for the defense that Sandusky suffers from histrionic personality disorder. However, the judge limited his testimony to the “creepy” letters that Sandusky sent to victim number 4 and not to any of the alleged sexual acts. Sandusky is charged with sexual abuse of young boys consisting of in some cases, oral and anal sex, over a period of many years. Those acts are more appropriately defined as pedophile. A pedophile has been defined as a psychosexual disorder in which the fantasy or act of engaging in sexual activity with children is the preferred or exclusive means of achieving sexual excitement and gratification. It may be either heterosexual or homosexual. There is no known criminal defense to being a pedophile and performing sexual acts on children.
With the current state on concussions in football careers, it would have been more helpful for the defense to have a neuropsychological examination performed on Sandusky to suggest that he has a brain disorder caused by playing for Penn State football and for many years prior to college. Sandusky played as linebacker for Penn State for 4 years. With the NFL lawsuits filed by players for problems caused by concussions from football and the recent suicidal deaths of football players, it seems like a more helpful defense than histrionic disorder. And with many jurors with Penn State affiliations, the defense of a latent brain injury trauma could have given them a reason to hang their Penn State “not guilty” cap on.
Any criminal defense always tries to find inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case. On Tuesday, the defense may have scored some points with showing inconsistencies and innuendo that the boys now adults knew others alleged oral and anal sexual encounters with Sandusky. Dottie Sandusky testified on Tuesday on behalf of her husband. A wife testifying to keep her husband out of jail will have little sway with the jury.Of course, she testified that she never saw or heard anything inappropriate occurring between husband and the victims. That was a no brainer.
The ultimate question is whether Sandusky will take the stand in his defense. Any criminal defendant has a right to remain silent and not have his or her silence used against him. Sandusky already spoke on TV about his case and love of young boys onTV with Bob Costas. It would be legal suicide for him to testify at his court case. No good could come of it. Yet, the defense team says “stay tuned” for a decision on whether Sandusky will testify. While you’re waiting, here’s a commercial break with Sandusky talking to Bob Costas about his associations with young boys.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post.