A Legal Lesson on the Penn State Scandal
I have read many complaints about how long investigators "waited" to take legal action, and all these claims do is reinforce my understanding of how little the majority of the American public actually knows about the justice system.
Now, I am not an officer of the peace. Nor am I a judge. I am not even a law student, let alone a lawyer. I am a college student with a relatively keen interest in attending law school. So I am going to keep it simple. This is to be in defense, per se, of those being lambasted for acting so slowly.
The most important thing to remember about the American penal code is that upholding the rights of the accused is equally as paramount as enforcing justice. The prevailing philosophy therein, is that it is better to let a guilty man go free than to incarcerate innocent one. Everyone who lives in this country should be endlessly thankful for that idea. It is an imperative for living securely as a free and autonomous person in a free and democratic state.
On that note, there is an appellate system. That system typically sides with the defendant in the case of an error by the prosecution. Now, that means that if during any point of the investigative and legal process proper protocols or the law were not followed, the case can be thrown out—either by the presiding judge or a higher court. The defendant may then walk or be re-tried. But any evidence, etcetera, that was obtained illegally, is not admissible.
Another aspect of the justice system to keep in mind is the "double-jeopardy" clause. That is—a defendant may not be tried for the same crime twice following a legitimate conviction or acquittal. This is a right afforded to those tried in American courts by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. Therefore, sufficient evidence must be collected legally and presented coherently so as to prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." Remember, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. A defense could say nothing and if there is doubt, find the verdict in their favor.
Furthermore, there is a difference between the court of public opinion and a court of law. We can continue to learn more about this case and our opinions on it may change as more details leak out into the public stratum. Yet, you cannot do that in a court of law. The press can make mistakes based on incomplete or erroneous information; a prosecutor, or a team thereof, does not have that same lenient luxury.
Now, about said prosecutor or prosecutors, a case this horrifying and the subsequent scandal of a proportional magnitude is a career-maker or a career-ender. As I said earlier the burden of proof is on the prosecution. All the pressure, the weight of the world even, is on the shoulders of that litigator and his or her team. This is not the time to make a mistake, to say in the very least. I do not envy the prosecution for this case; and with all due respect, I do not believe you would wish to be in their shoes either.
I say take your time. Mind you, there is a statuette of limitations, but in this case it will not be violated. Let the prosecution get it right. Be patient. And if Jerry Sandusky is found guilty in a court of law for these charges, I say let him rot in a cell. Along the way, I am sure he will find out the meaning of the term prison justice all too intimately.
Most Recommended Comment
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States