Our One True Moral Responsibility
This past week, it has been presumed as an article of faith, first stated by PA State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan and then regurgitated throughout the press and blogosphere, that Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is somehow deficient as a human being because he failed in his "moral responsibility to call us (the State Police)."
Putting aside for the moment the propriety of the Commonwealth's chief investigating officer publicly impugning a witness in an ongoing criminal case, let's review an alternative opinion from an attorney, former special prosecutor, and Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy.This viewpoint would seem to vindicate JoePa's actions and raise serious questions about the rush to judgment by the media lynch mob.
"I think Paterno did what was both morally and legally correct. After contacting his chain of command superiors, he let them do their jobs. He knew there was a police force that investigates (and prosecutes) crimes on campus. He took it to the person who is the police commissioner of the town."
"Suggesting Paterno should have done more is both ridiculous and dangerous. Paterno should not have approached Sandusky, for fear he tip him off to the investigation; he should not have called University police after nothing happened because a police department has a right to set its own policing priorities."
"Once he reported the incident, Paterno had no other action he could reasonably take. If he pressed further or went public, he risked opening himself and the University up to a lawsuit from Sandusky for libel. And that is assuming Paterno thought the grad assistant was both reliable and accurate. By that person's own admission, he was distraught...Paterno is not a witness, but merely sharing hearsay from McQueary."
"If Paterno did go to the Chief of Police, the person under Gary Schultz, that would be an act of insubordination. What if he were wrong? He would lose a longtime friend. He would hurt alums, recruits and his teams. His fellow coaches could not trust him...all of this without being an actual witness to anything."
This prosecution has a long way to go and undoubtedly it will test our discipline and sense of justice. Right now, we have only gotten the first half of the story. Think about how different the second half of the Duke lacrosse story was from what we thought we knew. It is not dishonoring any victims when we demand strict adherence to due process. In fact, it is our one true moral responsibility.