BELLEFONTE — Jerry Sandusky's fate could be decided by the time the suns sets on this day.
That's what some criminal lawyers are saying as the prosecution and defense teams prepare to make their closing arguments this morning in Centre County court.
Senior Judge John Cleland reiterated Wednesday that the jury should have the case and begin deliberations by early this afternoon.
He has told the jurors that they will be sequestered until a verdict is returned.
Sandusky faces 48 counts in his child sex abuse trial, after Cleland threw out three more counts today, and jurors must rule on each count. The most serious are 11 separate counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Each of those charges carries a minimum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison if a guilty verdict is returned.
Matt McClenahen, a State College attorney, said if he were taking bets on how long the jury will take to reach a decision, he would put the over/under at 4 1/2 hours.
"I think a lot of people would bet on the over, and they would be wrong and the house would make a lot of money," he said.
"I don't think they'll be out very long," McClenahen said. "They'll go down through all of the counts, and I think they'll render guilty verdicts in the vast majority."
Gunner Gleason, a Cambria County criminal attorney with five decades of courtroom experience, agreed that the deliberations could be short — very short, actually.
"You should see a decisive verdict in one or two hours," Gleason said.
"The number of counts is the one thing that could lengthen the process," he said. "But I think this will definitely result in a guilty verdict on serious charges relative to a number of victims. The jury may find they have acquittal evidence in a couple of situations. But I also wouldn't be surprised if you get a guilty verdict in every single one of them.
"It's hard to detach your emotions, especially if you feel strongly that he committed the more egregious charges. If the jury is at 10 for conviction and two against, or maybe 11 and 1, you'll get a quick fold on the others."
Here's what will happen in court today:
• Cleland will "charge" the jury at 9 a.m. He will revisit the many charges they will consider and will remind them of any evidence or testimony that has been stricken from the record from the seven days of proceedings.
• The defense will be first to present a closing argument, and the prosecution will follow. Each side will have 90 minutes to make its final points with the 12 jurors.
• Then, Cleland will issue final orders to the jury and deliberations will begin.
"The commonwealth's case is compelling," said State College attorney Ed Blanarik Jr. "In their close, the focus is going to be on reviewing the victims' testimony, reinforcing those key points in the jurors' minds.
"Joe Amendola is going to need to explain why Jerry Sandusky didn't testify. And he'll go back over everything he was nicking away at throughout the trial, discussing the key points he's been trying to make. He'll be telling the jury that there are a lot of chinks in the prosecution's armor."
Blanarik wasn't ready to predict a verdict by suppertime, but thought one might be announced by late today.
"I don't think it will be a two-, three-hour verdict," Blanarik said. "The jurors will consider all of the evidence and they'll be looking closely at all of the counts. I wouldn't expect a short verdict. I'd say they may reach a decision sometime in the evening.
"My experience is that juries work real hard to make sure they've been thorough and that in this case, Jerry Sandusky has a fair trial. If there's hesitancy on even one juror's part, they'll work hard trying to consider everything."
McClenahen predicted that the jury would toss out counts involving some alleged victims — including the secondhand testimony of a janitor claiming a boy was assaulted in a shower. He said some charges could also be reduced, and predicted the shower scene described by Mike McQueary will bring a change from felony involuntary deviate sexual intercourse to a lesser charge, perhaps indecent assault. That alleged victim was never identified by authorities.
McClenahen also thinks the jury might be convinced by Amendola's attempts to show that a state trooper coached an alleged victim about the severity of his attack.
"I would be hesitant to convict there," McClenahen said. "I don't like the tactics of the police."
All of that said, McClenahen expects guilty verdicts on enough counts to send Sandusky to prison for the rest of his life — barring an appeal.
"In the big picture, it doesn't matter if he's convicted on all counts or just one or two," McClenahen said. "You're looking at a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 to 20 years on every deviate sexual intercourse count.
"If he's found guilty, it will be interesting to see if the judge decides the sentences will be consecutive or concurrent. When you're 68 years old, a 10-to-20-year sentence isn't good. If the judge makes them consecutive, then it amounts to a life sentence."
Gleason agreed: "A conviction on the more serious charges is tantamount to life in prison."
Chip Minemyer can be reached at 231-4640. Follow him on Twitter @MinemyerChip