It's not going to be easy. Like "climbing Mount Everest," his own lawyer told the jury this morning. Eight accusers will testify against Jerry Sandusky, and tell the jury that he lavished gifts on them, groped them, had sex with them. A poll from November showed that only three percent of Pennsylvanians had a favorable opinion of Sandusky. Given the horrible nature of the alleged crimes, and Penn State's haste to distance itself, a lot of minds are already made up. How does Joe Amendola go about trying to get his client declared not guilty?
"I'm not sure how to approach it," Amendola said. "The commonwealth has overwhelming evidence against Mr. Sandusky."
Today saw opening arguments in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Gerald A. Sandusky, and the prosecution's remarks brought nothing new to the table: a preview of testimony recounting 15 years and hundreds of instances of abuse. The defense's statements, however, gave us a sneak peek into Amendola's strategy for getting Sandusky off.
There won't be a claim of mistaken identity, or a grand conspiracy, or any single sweeping explanation for why Sandusky didn't do what he's accused of. Instead, Amendola will try to convince the jury that each's accuser's story, taken independently, still provides for reasonable doubt. Some of the accusers aren't to be trusted because they changed their stories, or misremembered dates. Others will be questioned on why they continued to see Sandusky, even after molestation allegedly occurred. Amendola will argue that Sandusky showered with young boys because that's how he did it when he was young and playing sports—and he will call his own witnesses, men who will testify that they showered with Sandusky but were never sexually abused.
In perhaps the crux of his defense, Joe Amendola will ask the jury if the accusers have any reason to lie—and then point to the fact that most of them have retained civil attorneys, the better with which to sue Penn State.
"You saw those 8 photos, cute kids," he said. "Why would they lie? Folks, I don't know if any of you have been involved in family disputes over money. ... The evidence will show these young men had a financial interest in pursuing this case. All of these kids came from The Second Mile by recommendation and referrals ... because they had issues."
It may not go over well, but raising questions of the credibility of his accusers is all Sandusky has left. Even then, it's still the word of eight against one. Joe Amendola closed his statement by asking jurors to "keep an open mind." Sandusky smiled at those words.