By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) When you set up for a Hail Mary, run the play. A football coach should understand that.
Three receivers right, seven-step drop, second wave running a few yards behind in case of a deflection, and put enough air under the ball for somebody to make a play. Fling that thing and hope.
The last thing you do is have the QB take a knee.
The whole point of Jerry Sandusky going to trial against a mountain of evidence was to take an all-in stab at a small chance of victory. Any plea deal he would have been offered would still have kept the 68-year-old behind bars for the remainder of his life, so he had absolutely nothing to lose by forcing the prosecution’s hand.
In his opening statement to the jury, defense attorney Joe Amendola said clearly that Sandusky would take the witness stand, so the jury could hear from him in his own words. This was considered a surprise, since the state was not expecting Sandusky to allow himself to be the subject of a potentially withering cross-examination, but it was at least consistent with a go-for-it defense philosophy.
When asked after court on Thursday whether Sandusky would testify, Amendola said, “Did I make an opening statement? I’m Catholic. I don’t lie.”
Well the defense just rested, and Sandusky didn’t speak.
According to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports, defense attorneys were preparing Sandusky for his testimony just last night, but they decided against it this morning, finishing their case with a head-scratching twist. Without hearing from the defendant, the proceedings essentially were a re-presentation of the initial grand-jury report, only with more painful humanity and sickening details. There was no refutation of any of the alleged rapes, only some quibbling about inconsistencies in stories and timelines.
Defense witnesses sounded more like those who make statements before sentencing, pleading for leniency. Nothing concrete was offered to even attempt to convince jurors that Sandusky had not actually perpetrated anything that was being alleged.
What was the point of going to trial, then, especially if it didn’t conclude with what Amendola promised initially — the defendant pleading his innocence as forcefully as possible?
Pick whatever nothing-to-lose metaphor you want, here: very arrow in the quiver, every bullet in the gun, every card in the deck. If the idea is to give one juror enough to find the thinnest strand of reasonable doubt, enough perhaps to buy Sandusky’s freedom, don’t lay down at the end.
So the case has only closing arguments to go, finishing with what seems like the equivalent of a guilty plea. There would be no reason not to hear from an innocent man, facing 51 false charges of child sex-abuse.
But this is cozy Centre County, remember, not anything resembling the real world inhabited by people not infected by the dark, twisted cult of Penn State football. We have chronicled the multiple connections the jurors have to the school, the team and Sandusky himself. In fact, just this morning, Juror 6 – a married woman in her 20s with no ties to the school – called in sick and was replaced by an alternate – a 30-year-old woman who graduated from Penn State. Sandusky was her graduation speaker.
Is it possible Amendola knows something?
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.