Public trials are a public relations nightmare when an institution is one of the litigants, particularly when it is a defendant.
The Pennsylvania State University, from a public relations viewpoint, is on trial by proxy, the preliminary hearing leading up to the trial having finished on Tuesday. It is a taste of things to come.
Preliminary hearings are held at a magisterial level in Pennsylvania to determine whether there is a prima facie case against a defendant, or three men formerly at the top of the PSU administration in this case, to warrant a trial at the Court of Common Pleas level.
Prosecutors will lay out a case they believe will pass that test, and often will reserve even more damning evidence for the subsequent trial. The defense, if it doesn't waive the right to a hearing, often retains arguments as well.
The result will be the combination of flashbacks to the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case, which brought about all of this damage to an otherwise honorable institution, and a new broadside loosed on the administration of the institution itself.
The result, no matter what the ultimate verdict in the case against ex-President Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and ex-athletic director Tim Curley, will be another layer of suspicion and disenchantment that Penn State will have to endure and get past. No doubt it will also be a difficult experience for those who cherish the memory of the late Joe Paterno, who will be drawn into this latest battle from the grave.
We have faith in Penn State, that it will rise above this particularly grisly street fight and emerge healthy, focused and strong, displaying the same sort of pluck that its football team displayed only months after the scandal overwhelmed it.