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What Can Citizens Stand For in the Penn State Saga?

On August 9, 2012 I wrote in the Bizzy Life, ” If the judicial proceedings find Schultz and Curley guilty and in defiance of the Clery Act (1990) I will accept the findings without question because I believe in due process and presumption of innocence. Those two constitutional protections are trampled on by those who use the Freeh Report and the NCAA sanctions as proof that the Penn State administration and Joe Paterno are criminals. The outrage is cathartic but it is not going to fix the problems the Sandusky revelations have identified. The means used by this monster to endanger and manipulate children should never exist again. For example, what kind of oversight should exist to deal with groups like Second Mile? How do we get answers to questions like this? One means would be to follow the ongoing litigation Penn State will face for years to come. The trials will help us find the devil in the details.”

As of November 2, 2012 a duly constituted Grand Jury, with subpoena powers, has indicted former Penn State President Spanier based on documents secured through a legitimate discovery process. The wheels of justice have begun to turn. Soon the Schultz and Curley trials will be set. When these three citizens have been vigorously defended and their rights to review all the evidence against them and their right to present evidence supporting their innocence are exhausted we will have a decision on what actually happened at Penn State under the Rule of Law.

On August 9, 2012 I wrote, “ It is only when the trials of Schulz and Curley are completed that we will know according to the law what to make of what happened at Penn State.” This now applies to former President Spanier.

The juries in all three cases will determine which, ” details”, are binding on the question of guilt or innocence for these citizens. Out of respect for the Rule of Law we should await the verdict. The verdict is the province of the Jury.

As fellow citizens we are on trial to see if we live up to the challenge of protection above all of due process which is the ground on which society rests its integrity for the decision to diminish the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for crimes against the society that guarantees those rights.

The discipline required to maintain the presumption of innocence in a trial connected to the monstrous acts of any future Sandusky is one of the great challenges we face when we live in a society that provides us this protection from guilt by accusation. This discipline must also be matched by the courage to always report to the police information relevant to criminal actions immediately. These two virtues, discipline and courage, are the individual rocks on which our rights continue into the future.

A specific example of the challenges we face as citizens can be found easily in the daily press and present in countless other forms of communication. I chose this article virtually at random after seeing others nearly identical in structure in the press and on the web.
Examine the Headline and the conclusion of this article. Found at

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/8584617/former-psu-president-graham-spanier-indictment-shows-lengths-administrators-went-cover-sandusky-allegations.

By Lester Munson. Nov. 2, 2012.
Headline:
“Spanier Indictment Shows Cover-Up”
Conclusion: “As the result of an elaborate and relentless effort to conceal what Sandusky was doing and to protect the Penn State football program, Spanier, Schultz and Curley now face serious felony charges and, if convicted, the probability of incarceration.”
The headline states that a cover-up did occur. The conclusion states that the truth is known and, incidentally, you should see if the trial yields a conviction.

No. The trial determines if a cover-up occurred and if the laws applicable were broken. Even the Grand Jury only determines if there is sufficient evidence to go to trial and lives within this restraint. The reporter as judge/jury has gone beyond his (her) role under the 1st amendment if the citizens are not disciplined and treat the article and others that invade the province of the jury and that of the citizen as just argument and await the trier of fact for a conclusion.

We must consider the bill of rights at their boundaries where due process is the vehicle for the determination of the balance of rights bearing on a specific case. The right to a free press and the right to trial by a jury always have had an uneasy coexistence and require careful handling. Lester Munson is only doing what has become the standard of practice these days in the journalist’s world. This slip of the tongue or keystroke has been expanded further by the lack of discipline in the, “blogosphere” and “talk radio/TV.” I do not fault him, only us if we are not vigilant. If truth is not subject to rigorous examination equally applied to all, then it becomes like beauty. The eye of the beholder is all that counts. Then we have no protections from the arbitrary and capricious.

Journalists like “silver tongued” lawyers often confuse or try to slip the boundaries of their roles as guaranteed under the constitution. Journalists are protected in order to inform the public not decide for the public. This is increasingly important as the number of news sources, print in particular, diminish in quantity and even further in the number of owners in this digital age. Judges are there to ensure that lawyers provide only argument and intervene when their statements are presented disguised as evidence, citizens must play the same role overruling Journalistic excess.

This type of reporting undermines our duty if we let it guide or distort our role as citizens. The 4th estate informs us but does not relieve us of our duty to guard our and others rights to due process and the presumption of innocence. The headline and the argument to a conclusion are insidious in their contribution to undermining our duties if we let the 4th estate get away with this invasion of our province to protect the rights of the accused. This is just an example. An old axiom should apply “just the facts, mister.”

I never thought that I would quote Jack Webb (Joe Friday) from Dragnet to make a point about our need to maintain our independent judgment as citizens. However, the quote also meets a standard of good communications; keep it simple.

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