Friday, November 18, 2011

Post No. 176b: What All of Us Should Do at This Point in Time Regarding the Penn State Football Scandal

When the Penn State football child molestation scandal first broke a couple of weeks ago, the Logistician called us from Brazil and lamented that "Happy Valley" would no longer be happy. However, as a result of his legal training, he suggested the following: (a) that we not pre-judge the situation; (b) that we allow the facts to emerge slowly (particularly because the events took place over a period longer than a decade); and (c) that we refrain from arriving at any conclusions too quickly. He noted that based on his 30 years of experience investing factual matters, there is ALWAYS another side, angle, motivation, or "something."

However, in our travels on the streets of America, we found just the opposite attitude. Conclusions (and mental convictions) are already being made. As despicable and unfortunate the alleged conduct of former Defensive Coordinator Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky may theoretically be, under our system of jurisprudence, we here in America adhere to a concept which is designed to counter the lynch mob mentality of humans: innocence until guilt is proven.

We previously generated the following piece about those outside of the investigative agencies and the courtroom making judgments about criminal defendants. We thought it appropriate to re-visit some of our earlier thoughts.

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Last week, a staff member made a pound cake, and brought it into the office. Although the cake looked fine to us, she said that she became distracted while baking it, and that we might find the bottom a “little crunchy” because she baked it 20 minutes too long.

While we were transforming into Pillsbury Doughboys, Betty Crocker’s Father stopped by. He was serving as a juror on a jury trial at the courthouse down the street, and wanted a piece of his daughter’s cake. She also warned him of the potential crunchiness and the reason for it.

He appeared to enjoy the cake, but insisted that she baked it with the oven rack at the wrong level in her stove. Thinking that he did not hear her say that she baked the cake too long, she mentioned it again.

“I heard you the first time; that doesn’t matter.” he snapped, “What I’m saying is that you need to change the rack level.”

For the overly analytical ones of us here at the Institute, our thoughts instantly went to, “And this guy is serving as a juror?” We all hoped that he was serving on a civil jury, where only money was involved, and not someone’s liberty.

But there were 2 other experiences we had last week which made us further question the ability of criminal defendants to get a fair trial, apart from the efforts of the Nancy Graces of the world to convict them immediately after arrest and before booking is completed.

We previously mentioned our connections to the O.J. trial when the Institute was headquartered in Los Angeles. A friend of the Institute who knew of those connections called us shortly after “Tot Mom” Casey Anthony was acquitted in the death of her daughter, and said that it reminded her of the O.J. trial. The acquittal made her once again question our entire legal system.

She was apparently a fly in the jury room during the deliberations. Shortly thereafter, another tenant in our building asked whether we had heard of Anthony’s acquittal, and then immediately launched into how Anthony’s delay in reporting her daughter missing led her to believe that she was guilty. We suspect that there were enough stale donuts left in the jury room to support multiple flies.

These days, we aren’t quite sure how anyone receives a fair trial, with electronic media spewing sound bites at the speed of light. We seriously doubt that many take the time to digest even 1/100th of the evidence or facts involved, and yet they arrive at a conclusion.

To which they are entitled, no doubt.

We recall a friend once suggesting that because she saw photos of the mayhem inflicted on Nicole Brown Simpson’s body, she knew that O.J. was guilty. And of course, the former head of the International Monetary Fund was guilty, because the rich prey on the poor and consider themselves above the law.

We’re not quite sure whether this is what the Founding Fathers envisioned early on.

But as they often say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

For most students of the law, the line between civil and criminal offenses is fairly clear, and there is even a different burden of proof built into our system of jurisprudence. And white collar folks, whether rightly or wrongly, don’t expect to find themselves locked up in a jail cell with “common criminals.”

(We can almost guarantee you that hundreds of our readers across the globe, upon reading the preceding paragraph thought out loud, “But they should!”)

Horse manure is about to hit the fan soon, and the whole notion of innocence until proven guilty is about to be severely tested. Just continue to follow this phone hacking scandal involving News of the World. What prompted us to write this piece was an e-mail alert from the New York Times just a couple of hours ago, entitled, “An Arrest and Scotland Yard Resignation Roil Britain.” Upon reading the e-mail further, it noted that Britain’s most highly ranked police official resigned, and Rebekah Brooks, the former Chief Executive of News International, was arrested.

Over the years, there have been calls in some circles for expert or professional jurors to address some of the imperfections associated with lay jurors. But one of the principles built into the system is that one is entitled to be judged by a jury of his or her peers.

For the sake of the system, and all involved, we sure hope that neither our pound cake crunching retiree, our disillusioned friend in California, our fellow tenant in our building, nor Nancy Grace are on Ms. Brooks’ jury.

She wouldn’t have a chance in hell.

Well, but then again, it could be worse. We could only allow politicians to serve as jurors….

Hmm..., but then they would never reach a verdict.


  1. I've read about the Penn State football child molestation scandal in the news as well. In addition to that I also looked at the Grand Jury Report here:

    What makes me wonder is that even tough the assistant coach, the janitor and a mother made reports there was no follow-up. Certainly looks like a big cover-up to me.

  2. Thank you very much for stopping by my blog - I just came to see your blog. Whoa, you are a Writer!

    Happy US Thanksgiving day!

  3. Sandusky is almost certainly guilty. This certainty is witnessed by the fact that none of his closest friends and associates is making any effort at all to publicly defend his name or his reputation. The only question in my mind is how much those same, silent friends and associates actually share in his guilt, and should, therefore, share in his punishment. Sins of omission are real sins and should have real consequences.

  4. Good to hear from you again wSteffie. Hope that all is well with you. Thanks also for providing the link to the Grand Jury Report. We should all be mindful of the manner in which a grand jury does its work, and the historical reasons for it.

    Additionally, we need to keep in mind that there are often political reasons for convening a grand jury as opposed to proceeding with a criminal complaint filed by the District Attorney or the State Attorney General, which is typically the case. Finally, it should be kept in mind that the grand jury proceeding is one sided, in that the defendant / defense is not afforded an opportunity to present their case.

    You've brought up a good point regarding the responsibility, if any, on the part of the other percipient witnesses to report the events, and the response of those who received the information. A cover-up arguably requires some affirmative conduct with a goal of concealment, whereas inaction might be considered something else. Acts of omission can also be viewed differently.

  5. MiKa Art, thanks for paying us a visit. Tangentially, I should note that I can not take credit for all of the posts on this blog. Some of written by the Logistician who is now on sabbatical in Brazil, and others were written by the two other Fellows with the Institute, the Laughingman, and the Optimizer. The posts here reflect our collective thoughts, not just the thoughts of one individual. We share our thoughts and try to arrive at a consensus regarding our position, if one is taken.

    Do visit again, and invite your friends and blog followers.

  6. Rodak:

    It's been awhile. Welcome back.

    We are almost certain that he will be found guilty. The viewing and reading public has been prejudiced by the media coverage from the Day One. Not only that, the crimes are so heinous that to find otherwise would be viewed as a "miscarriage of justice." There is virtually no way that he can be exonerated. Plus, he is no Michael Jackson.

  7. Whether one buys this or not, there is ALWAYS another side. What's interesting here is that Sandusky chose to conduct this interview knowing that he will be tried, and probably against advice of counsel. Some, we are sure, will say that his attorneys advised him to employ this tactic to influence potential jurors and create some doubt. Be that as it may, there is always another angle.

  8. Earlier this week, we saw part of The Good German starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Tobey Macguire. We paid a visit to the Wikipedia article about the movie, which indicated:

    "The film's title alludes to the notion of 'a good German,' one who ostensibly was not to blame for allowing Hitler to persecute the Jews and others, and who did not see the Holocaust as it occurred before his eyes. Thematically, the film centers on guilt, and whether it is possible to survive the atrocities while being unaware of and not complicit in them."

    Wow. We thought about this in connection with the folks at Penn State who theoretically should have been "aware" of the activities of Assistant Coach Sandusky, and who arguably had some "responsibility" to investigate or report it.

    At one point in the movie, Clooney mentions a German citizen who did not see himself as a murderer. He drove a truck where the exhaust fumes were pumped into an enclosure filled with Jews. He thought that he was simply a "truck driver."


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