BELLEFONTE — Jerry Sandusky’s attorneys argue there’s a reason why Sandusky wrote letters, even a story in the third-person, to young boys explaining how much they meant to him.
It’s not that Sandusky was grooming them, as prosecutors allege. Rather, it was to “satisfy the needs of a psyche” of someone who suffers from a mental condition called histrionic personality disorder.
On Friday, the judge overseeing the case said he’d allow the defense to have expert testimony about the disorder. It’s a small victory for the defense after four days of hearing from eight young men who testified that Sandusky fondled them, showered with them and sexually abused them.
The American Psychiatric Association calls histrionic personality disorder “a pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking” that’s “often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior” and rapidly shifting emotions.
In his ruling, Senior Judge John Cleland said Sandusky must make himself available to prosecutors so they can prepare rebuttal psychiatric or psychological testimony.
“If the defendant raises a mental state issue relying on expert testimony, then the state is generally allowed to get its own expert evaluation,” said Christopher Slobogin, a professor of law and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University.
Prosecutors presented the jury letters written by Sandusky and seized from boxes Sandusky left behind from his Penn State office.
The young man known as alleged victim No. 4 testified that some of them were “creepy love letters.”
One started like this:
“Once again I have decided to write some of my thoughts. I write because you mean so much to us. I wrote because I am concerned about all of us. I write because of the churning in my own stomach when you don’t care ...”
Another made reference to Sandusky needing the boy to be a “best friend” even though “it doesn’t look real good.”
Karl Rominger, the defense attorney who filed the motion to allow the expert testimony, wrote that, “No juror is going to recognize the words of a (h)istrionic, as that diagnostic and the traits of those so diagnosed are not contained in the body of common knowledge.”
The jury won’t hear from an expert about alleged victims’ behavior, including why they might delay talking about what happened to them. Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn’t allow that type of expert testimony. That will change if the General Assembly passes legislation it is considering to address that.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT