As Sandusky Trial Breezes Along, PA Judge Is Credited for Efficiency


USA Today profiles John Cleland, the soft-spoken, 64-year-old judge who is being credited with rare efficiency in overseeing the trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Perhaps not since the Oklahoma City bombing trial of Timothy McVeigh has such a high-profile criminal case been as strictly managed. Cleland is a no-nonsense judge who leaves no doubt about who is in charge. The judge is the son of two rural Pennsylvania doctors. A graduate of George Washington University Law School, Cleland eventually returned to Pennsylvania, where he has served as a judge for nearly a quarter-century.

Impeccably groomed and thoroughly prepared, Cleland has set a courtroom schedule that is followed almost to the minute. Witnesses have moved in and out of the courtroom so swiftly that prosecutors concluded the bulk of their case — evidence involving 51 criminal counts — in just four days. And Monday, Cleland announced that the case, which began nearly four years ago, could be submitted to the jury Thursday after less than two weeks of testimony. There are no lingering breaks. There is no coming and going inside the more than a century-old courthouse. And some spectators and reporters have been locked out after showing up late.

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