Criminal Procedure

Judge Nixes Tweets and Pseudonyms for Witnesses as Jerry Sandusky Child Sex-Abuse Trial Looms


While major news organizations often opt not to name alleged victims of sex crimes, several of the witnesses in a high-profile case against former assistant Pennsylvania State University football coach Jerry Sandusky had asked to testify using pseudonyms. Given the publicity expected to be accorded the Bellefonte, Pa., trial witnesses could be branded for life due to their connection with the case, one lawyer argued.

But on Monday, a Pennsylvania judge nixed that idea, saying that witnesses must be identified, although he and the lawyers in the Centre County case will do what they can to protect witness privacy, the Associated Press reports.

“Arguably any victim of any crime would prefer not to appear in court, not to be subjected to cross-examination, not to have his or her credibility evaluated by a jury—not to put his name and reputation at stake,” wrote Judge John Cleland. “But we ask citizens to do that every day in courts across the nation.”

After earlier indicating that he might allow real-time electronic communications during the trial, Cleland also nixed tweets and other such messaging, the AP says.

The rulings suggest that jury selection in the 52-count child sex-abuse case against Sandusky, 68, could start on Tuesday as scheduled, according to the Los Angeles Times.

However, still undecided at last report is a motion in front of Cleland seeking the dismissal of some counts and a motion to the state supreme court seeking a delay of the trial.

Credibility of the claimed victims is expected to be a central issue at trial, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

“This thing goes one of two ways,” law professor Wes Oliver of Widener University tells the newspaper. “Either you think these victims are completely making this up, or you get on board with these victims and say, ‘Oh my god, this is horrific.’ “

Cleland also ruled Monday that the prosecution is not required to share its investigation of potential jurors with the defense.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Charged with 12 New Counts, Ex-Penn State Coach Sandusky Posts $250K Bail After Night Spent in Jail”

ABAJournal.com: “Is Federal Probe of Former Penn State Football Coach Sandusky Focusing on Possible Cover-Up?”

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