Commentary

No closure, healing in verdict

The only positive in Sandusky case: People are working for justice

Updated: June 23, 2012, 2:59 PM ET
By Lester Munson | ESPN.com

The language of the law, so compelling and so descriptive in so many cases, fails to describe the crimes of Jerry Sandusky. Words such as "deviate" and "indecent" and "corruption of children" are not enough.

Even when we add lawyers' courtroom rhetoric with nouns such as "monster" and "atrocity," we do not begin to describe what this former Penn State coach did to so many boys, and we do not begin to measure the actions and inactions of those in the Penn State football program who enabled Sandusky to rape children again and again in football facilities, before and after football practices, and on football trips.

As we struggle to find the vocabulary that will work, we will use words such as "closure" and "healing." The verdict Friday evening will not produce closure, and it will not produce healing. If it does anything that is positive, it tells us that the legal system has concluded the most important part of its work on Sandusky. That's it. There is nothing more to it. Much more remains to be done before we even begin to discuss healing or closure.

The searing and unforgettable testimony from Sandusky's victims, testimony that rocked seasoned veterans of courtroom drama, should remind us of the monstrous deceits that allowed Sandusky to operate, all in the name of protecting what was supposed to be a model football program.

If the graphic testimony of the victims is not enough, we see other reminders outside the courtroom -- an adopted son who now says Sandusky abused him, and a former daughter-in-law who worried about what Sandusky was doing with his grandchildren.

The verdict and the incarceration of Jerry Sandusky should remind us of what Grantland writer Charles Pierce said after the scandal broke: "It no longer matters if there continues to be a football program at Penn State."

They can pretend they are returning to some version of normal at Penn State, but there is more to come. Next on the docket is the trial of athletic director Tim Curley, who is on leave, and now-retired university vice president Gary Schultz on charges of lying to the grand jury. Like Sandusky, both Curley and Schultz are claiming to be innocent.

If they persist in their claims of innocence, the trial is likely to produce evidence of a systemic cover-up of Sandusky's actions, a cover-up that extended into the higher echelons of the university and makes Watergate look benign. The trial will present a picture of people at the highest level acting at the lowest level.

And that is not all. With Sandusky locked away, more victims likely will come forward. Their lawsuits seeking monetary damages from Penn State will pile up and become a serious problem for the university and for the family of the late Joe Paterno. For the metrics of the problem, you need look no further than the Catholic church and its decades-long struggle to defend itself against litigation filed by victims of predatory pedophiles.

The encouraging thing about the trial and the jury's verdict is that some in the Penn State neighborhood are finally doing the right things -- Judge John Cleland, who pushed the case to trial and incarcerated Sandusky immediately after the verdict; prosecutor Joe McGettigan, who protected the victims and helped them with painful testimony; and the jurors, who patiently considered the charges and the evidence and made the right decision.

If that trend continues in the trial of Curley and Schultz, and in the settlement of the victims' claims, we might then be able to set aside the language of the law and start talking about "closure" and "healing."

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