Criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield has a great explanation as to why the judge was correct in denying accused child molester Jerry Sandusky’s victims the option to testify pseudoanonymously at his trial:
There are three reasons. First, because they are not victims until a jury convicts the defendant, finding that a crime occurred and the defendant committed it. Second, because the scrutiny that adheres to testimony and compels a witness to be truthful requires that they put their true self, their real name, the full background, on trial. Third, because our Constitution commands a public trial, and a public trial cannot be had when critical participants get to hide in the shadows.
Read more on Simple Justice.
That argument will likely upset those who believe that we must offer victims anonymity or protection if we want them to come forward – or that we don’t want them to travel through life after the trial with everyone knowing gruesome details about them. As someone who counseled rape victims, I do understand and appreciate those arguments. I recall one case where a woman seeking counseling claimed to have been raped by her brother-in-law. She did not want to go to the police because she did not know what might happen if her husband learned of the assault. But there was no way around it – if she sought justice through the legal system, people would find out. Ultimately, she decided not to go to the police and to keep it all secret. That was decades ago. I sometimes wonder how she’s fared over the years living with that secret.
In this case, those claiming they were victimized are now all adults. Even if the media self-censors and does not publish their names, it is quite possible that others will publish their names and their lives will never be the same. But sometimes, as Scott points out, that’s the price we pay to right a wrong and to ensure a fair trial.