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News Wrap: Defense Makes Closing Argument in Sandusky Trial

June 21, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A spate of grim economic reports sent Wall Street down sharply today. Stocks fell on weak manufacturing numbers in the U.S. and China, and disappointment with the Federal Reserve’s limited stimulus action. The Dow Jones industrial average had its second worst drop this year, down nearly 251 points to close at 12,573. The Nasdaq fell 71 points to close at 2,859.

Oil prices also dropped again to just over $78 a barrel. That’s the lowest in nearly nine months.

And late today, the credit rating firm Moody’s downgraded the debt ratings of 15 big banks, including Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.

Commerce Secretary John Bryson has resigned after suffering a seizure while driving in Southern California this month. Bryson is 68 years old. On June 9, he was involved in a series of traffic accidents near Los Angeles. He was later found unconscious in his car. In a letter to President Obama today, Bryson said he was stepping down because of his health.

A Pennsylvania jury began deliberating today in the case against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. He is accused of sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years. Shortly after the jury went out, one of Sandusky’s adopted sons said through his lawyer that he had been ready to testify that Sandusky abused him, too.

For more on all this, I’m joined by Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post covering the trial in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

So, Joel, as big a statement as this is, as important as this news might be, the jury’s never going to hear it, right?

JOEL ACHENBACH, The Washington Post: The jury doesn’t know about this. It’s a bombshell announcement to have a new accuser that hits so close to home to Sandusky.

It was a foster child the family later adopted. It’s their sixth adoptive child. And he was here at the trial at the very beginning. He was on the witness list. And the people on the witness list had to be sequestered, including Dottie Sandusky, the defendant’s wife.

So this was an announcement that just hit this afternoon. It confirmed a report earlier on NBC which also said that the reason Sandusky didn’t testify yesterday was because the prosecution had in its back pocket this surprise accuser, the adopted son. So the jury is deliberating now. They have ordered dinner. We will wait to see how long it will take for them to reach a verdict.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, what about closing arguments? You got to hear both sides today. How did the defense lay it out?

JOEL ACHENBACH: Well, the defense gave a rousing close.

Joe Amendola for Sandusky basically said, it’s an elaborate conspiracy by overzealous prosecutors and investigators, the news media and these out-of-town big city lawyers who want to cash in on lawsuits.

The prosecutor had the most dramatic moment. He gave kind of a rambling, folksy close. He seemed to lose his train of thought. But at the very end, he walked over and stood directly behind and next to Jerry Sandusky, who kind of whirled around and seemed alarmed.

The prosecutor was so close, he could have leaned on Sandusky’s head. The prosecutor said, give him the justice he deserves. Find him guilty of everything.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, and let’s talk a little bit about the composition of the jury. So many of them have deep connections to Penn State, right?

JOEL ACHENBACH: Well, that’s one of the points that Joe Amendola may have been trying to play on.

I mean, we have Penn State professors, we have Penn State student. All these people are local. This is not an out-of-town jury. And Amendola said, hey, the president has resigned. That was Graham Spanier, the president of Penn State. The coach is dead. That’s a reference to Joe Paterno. And he made the reference to these out-of-town lawyers.

So he may have been playing on local sensibilities.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Joel Achenbach from The Washington Post, thanks so much.

The Senate passed a five-year farm bill today in a rare display of bipartisanship. The half-trillion-dollar measure will end some crop subsidies. Instead, there is a greater reliance on federal crop insurance. Supporters said it is the first major overhaul of federal agriculture programs in decades. Opponents argued it still falls short. The House is working on its own farm bill, and conservatives there are pressing for deeper cuts.

In Egypt, crowds turned out in Cairo as Islamists protested the ruling military is moving to keep power for itself. Election officials were supposed to name the winner of the presidential election today, but they postponed the announcement.

We have a report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Tahrir Square today, they fear that the delay in announcing the election result means that Egypt’s military council is about to steal the presidency.

IMAD EDDEEN ABU TURQ, Egypt (through translator): The Egyptian people will not accept the falsification of the election. They expressed their will and elected the man they want to see in power.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, is widely believed to have won, but it was a close-run thing, and the military may yet announce that their man, General Ahmed Shafiq, is the victor.

Today’s demonstrators are Islamists, the secular young people who spearheaded last year’s uprising now pushed to the margins. Egypt’s military and the Brotherhood are pitted against each other, as they have been for the last half-century.

AMR GHARBEIA, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights: The secular political groups and parties and youth groups are divided between choosing one of the two evils, and the entire debate is on which is a lesser evil at the moment.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The military council has dissolved the freely elected parliament, and it, not the new president, will control the budget, security, the constitution, and foreign policy.

The military council is now reported to be discussing a deal over the presidency with the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s a far cry from the ideals which drove the Tahrir Square protesters last year.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The generals took power after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. He remained at a military hospital today amid conflicting reports about the state of his health.

It turns out that heart attacks trigger post-traumatic stress disorder in one out of eight patients, and the stress can double the risk of dying from a second heart attack. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center reported the findings today based on the results of 24 smaller studies. PTSD has long been known to affect combat veterans and victims of violent crime.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.