In their latest blog entry on the Huffington Post, Prof. Bennett Gershman and co-blogger Joel Cohen ask how it is that former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky has already been convicted–by the media and the court of public opinion–of the horrible crimes he is charged with.
Gershman and Cohen blame Pennsylvania’s Attorney General with “de facto” violating Sandusky’s rights by issuing the Grand Jury Report, or “presentment.”
They explain that this presentment “is basically an official document ostensibly drafted by a grand jury to describe its ‘findings’ after it has investigated certain conduct. Most frequently, the conduct that results in grand jury reports around the nation doesn’t result in criminal charges, but rather in a statement, sometimes called a ‘presentment,; that describes private or official wrongdoing and proposes remedies and recommends reforms. When a grand jury report is issued, in Pennsylvania as well as in most jurisdictions, the law requires that the facts disclosed in the report not, in the language of the Pennsylvania statute ‘prejudice fair consideration of a pending criminal matter.’ Accordingly, when such a report is issued, it is typically sealed, and a judge reviews the document to determine whether a defendant will be prejudiced by what the report will reveal once it is made public with the court’s approval.”
They write: “How is it possible, then, that Sandusky will not be/has not already been prejudiced by a grand jury report that directly identifies him by name, again and again, and in explicit detail, as the sexual predator who sodomized young boy after young boy? It is not possible. The name ‘Sandusky’is already synonymous with ‘monster’ without a witness ever having been sworn in open court.”