Jerry Sandusky and the Concept of Justice
It’s 9:58 p.m. on June 22nd. A middle-aged man — forever known as Juror 4 — stands confidently in a 207 year old courthouse located in the sleepy Victorian town of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He wears a blue button-up shirt, sleeves rolled halfway up his arms, with a distinct aura of professionalism about him.
He holds the paper out in front of him — the paper that decides how Jerry Sandusky will spend the rest of his life. “Guilty,” he says 45 different times, each one followed by a powerful and necessary pause, effectively turning the dagger even further into the gut of the defendant seated only a few feet away.
People said finally, justice had been served. But for me, the real justice came days before that fateful night in the Centre County Courthouse.
You see, there’s nothing I’ve ever read more thoroughly than the Grand Jury report — the document that rocked Penn State to it’s foundation last November. I knew their testimonies by heart. I knew the verbiage, I knew their stories, and I knew the horrific nature of the crimes. There were no surprises in their words, at least to me.
But for the first time last week, those numbers in the daunting 23 page PDF file on my computer suddenly became human. Their faces, their names, their expressions — I will never forget them. To me and the 200 other people in Courtroom One, those eight faces and those eight names will be engrained into our memories for as long as we live.
I’ll never forget the look in their eyes as they took the stand, less than 20 feet away from the man who has haunted them for years, and peered out into gallery to tell the world what they’ve held in for most of their lives.
To me, there’s little solace in the fact that Jerry Sandusky will be spending the rest of his life in prison. The damage is already done — to the victims and to Penn State. No, the true justice lies in the fact that for the first time in their lives, those victims were given voices. Real, tangible voices. And for the first time, the whole world was listening.
The extent of a coverup and mistakes by Penn State leadership is something that will be debated and scrutinized for years to come. And rightfully so. But without the unforgivable actions of Jerry Sandusky, none of that had to happen. He is ultimately responsible for the pain that all 10, 20, 100 of his victims feel every single day.
He is the reason I no longer get chills when I walk past the Lion Shrine. He is the reason the hair on my arms doesn’t stand up anymore when I sway back and forth to our Alma Mater. He is the reason I no longer feel a swelling, unparalleled pride throughout my entire body when I pass a crowd wearing my Penn State gear.
He irreparably damaged, forever, the only thing that I’ve ever truly loved.
For two weeks, I watched that sad shell of a man sit there in torture. Over and over. Hour after hour. There he sat, in pure emotional anguish, listening to these young men tell everyone what he did to them.
I looked into his eyes, long ago deserted of emotion. I saw his hands tremble as he tried to place them in his suit pocket. And I watched every day as that pathetic man walked into court, knowing he only had hours left to throw those god damned biscuits to his stupid dog.
Each victim, beaming down at the defense table, was finally empowered to tell the world what happened, while Jerry Sandusky saw his entire 68 years on this earth rendered meaningless.
That was justice for me.