Symposium Examines Important Legal, Societal Implications of the Jerry Sandusky Scandal
Harrisburg Web Correspondent and Web Editor - Published: October 18, 2012
On October 12th, Widener Law’s Harrisburg campus and the student-run Widener Law Journal hosted a daylong conference on the “Legal Implications of the Sandusky Scandal.”

The program featured four panels; Understanding the vulnerability of child victims, Criminal law and child abuse, Responses to child abuse outside criminal law, and Ethical concerns in abuse cases. The need for greater public awareness and new legal standards that would sufficiently incentivize the reporting of child sexual abuse emerged as important lessons of the Sandusky scandal and trial.

Students who had the opportunity to take in the program shared their thoughts on what they learned and why the discussions that occurred throughout the day were so beneficial. Presenters for the day included Dauphin County, Pa. District Attorney Ed Marsico and Patriot-News Editor Cate Barron. The Patriot-News won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Sandusky scandal.

“This area of law seems extremely tough, and I don’t know if I could put up with these stories day in and out,” said 3L student Christopher Woodward, who was particularly struck by Duquesne University School of Law Associate Professor and Director of the Criminal Justice Program Wesley Oliver’s remarks. “Professor Oliver’s statements were interesting. He effectively demonstrated the dichotomy between a defense attorney’s public persona and their court room behavior.”

Discussion of the media and the courtroom hit home for 2L Student Nicholas Peters, who thinks he may actually be more likely to enter this field of law. “The panel emphasized how public education is paramount. Tightening up reporting laws and encouraging people to talk about these things is an important first step.”

“The speakers’ personal experience was enlightening. But it seems that the defendant’s struggle in these cases is often overlooked. This public forum helps to make people think about stuff that they hadn’t considered.” Said 3L Gabor Ovari.

Widener Law Journal Symposium Editor Caitlin Glenn reflected on the day’s events as well, observing, “There is such an emotional aspect to this practice area that it must be really tough,” before adding, “However, it was a moving and important experience. Those who came left with a lot of knowledge about how the laws should move forward— such as tightening up reporting laws. The panel members brought some much needed public awareness, and we will continue to encourage future dialogue on these important societal issues.”