The evidence against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky seems overwhelming, but his defense attorneys are gamely trying to portray him as a guy who was a little odd but no child molester. The jury is likely to get the case this week and will decide whether the evidence against him of sexual abuse and rape of young boys is sufficient for conviction.
What happens if the jury acquits? Unfortunately for Sandusky, he has no chance of getting his "good name" back. No jury verdict or appeals court ruling will allow him to be what he once was, a respected football coach. This is the nature of infamous court cases. O.J. Simpson was acquitted by a jury of charges of murdering his wife and her friend, but the public has never been convinced of his innocence. More recently, former Sen. John Edwards was acquitted of violating campaign finance laws, but the evidence presented at trial and in the news media persuaded the public that Edwards was guilty of the most disgusting behavior even if he did not violate campaign finance laws.
The courtroom's carefully controlled environment focuses the jury on the facts entered into evidence, but the court of public opinion gathers information from many other sources, not all of them reliable. Sandusky might go free — we'll see in a few days — but he'll never be considered innocent, regardless of the jury's ruling.