Philadelphia Criminal Law News

Jerry Sandusky Sentencing; Judge Cleland Has His Work Cut Out

Friday, June 22, is when the jury comprised of Penn State alumni and other Centre County residents found Jerry Sandusky guilty of 45 counts of child sex abuse, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Now, all that remains is for the court to determine the length of Sandusky's sentence.

The jury deliberated for two days to reach its verdict, only acquitting him of 3 charges, including the charge based on Mike McQueary's testimony of walking in on the alleged abuse of a child in the Penn State locker room, according to the Inquirer. Now that the jury has completed its duty of determining the facts of the case, it is up to the judge to determine what happens next.

In all trials involving a jury, it is the jury's duty to determine the questions of fact, and the judge's duty to determine questions of law. In this trial, the jury decided that the witnesses were telling the truth, and that their testimony proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Sandusky had broken the law. Sentencing is a question of law because it requires interpretation of a law to figure out exactly how long a convict should be in jail. The only time a judge does not determine a sentence is in certain states with the death penalty.

In Pennsylvania, sentencing is based on the gravity of the offense, the prior record of the convicted, and if there are any so-called "enhancements" that add to the gravity of the crime. A judge looks at these factors to determine what the guideline sentence is for a convict and then the judge uses his or her discretion to decide exactly how long a person must stay in jail.

One more factor to sentencing is Megan's Law, the sex offender registry law. Part of Megan's Law is for people convicted of sex crimes to be assessed by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board to determine whether they are a sexually violent predator and what type of jail time or treatment they should get.

Here, it is likely that Sandusky will be labeled a sexually violent predator because the offense included multiple victims. Other factors to be considered include: the nature of the sexual contact with the victim, the age of the victim, and the behavioral characteristics of the offender, among other things.

Once Sandusky is labeled a sexually violent predator, then the judge can hold the sentencing hearing where he will hear arguments from the prosecution, the defense, and from the probation department. After hearing all of the arguments, reading the SOAB's report, and reading the sentencing guidelines, the judge will decide on a final sentence for Sandusky. Based on the felonies alone with Sandusky's charges, which include 11 first-degree felonies, 1 second-degree felony, and 9 third-degree felonies Sandusky looks at a maximum of 293 years.

Jerry Sandusky's sentence will most likely be for the rest of his life, because it is impossible to be convicted of 21 felonies and not be in jail for at least 30 years, at which point Sandusky could be 98 — if he survived that long.

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