During the Sandusky trial, MaleSurvivor Communications Committee Chair Thomas Hodson (who is himself a former attorney, trial judge, and is now a journalist) will be sharing with us some helpful explanations of the stages of a criminal trial. Our hope is that sharing this information here will help people better understand what is going on behind the scenes, and eliminate some of the confusion and uncertainty that will inevitably come up. Please follow our Twitter (@malesurvivorORG) and Facebook pages for more information and reactions as well.
Sandusky Trial: Sentencing
After a guilty finding, the next stage in a criminal trial is sentencing.
The jury finds whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty, but the judge is the person who pronounces the sentence facing the defendant.
Sometimes sentencing is immediate. However, in major cases, sentencing is often delayed for about a 90 day period before the judge convenes a sentencing hearing. This period is called the pre-sentencing phase. Sometimes a judge will order court staff or state correctional system staffers to prepare a written “pre-sentence investigation” about the defendant and the crimes so that a sentence can be tailored for a certain defendant convicted of certain crimes.
At the hearing, the defendant is present along with his legal counsel. The state is represented by the prosecutor.
Sometimes the judge will listen to oral arguments from lawyers from each side on what sentence might be appropriate. Sometimes the judge will allow the parties to present testimony to support a particular position to be argued about sentencing. That determination is within the discretion of each sentencing judge.
Sometimes victims will be able to testify, talking about the effect the crimes have had on them. Sometimes witnesses for the defense may testify about the defendant or the effect the case has had on the defendant’s family.
One thing, however, is NOT discretionary. Before the sentencing hearing is over, the judge always addresses the defendant personally – not through the defendant’s legal counsel. The judge always allows the defendant the right to speak openly to the public and to the victims before the judge imposes the sentence.
In the Sandusky case, it may be the first and only time that the media, the public and the victims (survivors) hear about the case from Sandusky’s own mouth. It might show whether he displays any remorse or grasp of the gravity of his crimes and the impact on each victim.
The judge will determine the number of years of incarceration assigned to each one of the 45 convictions in this case. He also can determine whether the defendant’s sentences on the multiple convictions will run simultaneously (concurrently) or consecutively…one after another.
Since Sandusky is facing a possible total of over 430 in prison and he is 68 years old, the difference between consecutive and concurrent is probably a distinction without a difference.
In Pennsylvania, the judge has the power to order special sentencing provisions in addition to the number of years of incarceration. The judge has many different options and may add some or none of these to the actual incarceration.
The sentence may include a provision for restitution for financial losses suffered by a victim (if any). Also, the judge could order that the defendant receive certain treatments – such as drug/alcohol treatment and/or psychological/psychiatric counseling. Under some circumstances, the judge may order the defendant to write each victim an apology. It is unknown whether the judge in this case will resort to these ancillary forms of sentencing in addition to the long years of imprisonment.