Jerry Sandusky, legal team set sights on appeals

adanahy@centredaily.comOctober 10, 2012 

With sentencing over in the Jerry Sandusky case, the convicted child molester and his attorneys have their eyes on appeals.

While there are arguments Sandusky’s legal team can make about why the conviction should be thrown out, whether those appeals can get the former Penn State coach a new trial is a different question.

“From what we have seen to this point, their most arguable issue is going to be due process,” said local attorney Tony DeBoef. "That will be the one the court spends the most time considering."

Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola talked about the issue of due process during a press conference after Tuesday’s sentencing. The defense had asked the court to delay the trial, arguing they needed more time to prepare adequately, but Senior Judge John Cleland rejected those requests. The defense appealed Cleland’s decision all the way up to the state Supreme Court, but was unsuccessful.

The question, DeBoef said, is “was the case rushed to trial so much that it did not give a fair trial to Jerry Sandusky?”

He said a key part of that will be whether any new information or evidence has surfaced that the defense would have discovered if they had been given the time to do what they said they needed to do.

Jules Epstein, a criminal law expert and associate professor at Widener University, said there are several factors to consider when looking at that argument.

“A claim of insufficient time to prepare is one that if it’s substantiated can lead to a new trial,” Epstein said. “But what does that mean? It means the defense has to show how much it could not do and that it was likely that that could make a difference.”

Defense attorney Karl Rominger said another appeal issue will be the prosecution’s reference to Jerry Sandusky’s interview on in a TV interview with Bob Costas. Specifically, the prosecutor said Sandusky had the chance to deny having had sex with boys in that interview with Costas.

Wes Oliver, associate professor at Duquesne University’s School of Law, said the defense could argue the court can’t hold Sandusky responsible for something he didn’t say. But, he noted, Sandusky put himself on the show and chose to comment.

Oliver, who followed the Sandusky case, said Sandusky’s appearance on the show also raises the possibility of ineffective counsel and conflict of interest as reasons for appeal.

“It looks pretty clear he didn’t prepare his client for it,” Oliver said of the well-known TV appearance during which Sandusky hesitated when asked if he was sexually attracted to young boys. “To me, that’s similar to not preparing a client for trial.”

“It appeared to me that there was inadequate preparation. Sandusky was like a deer in the headlights,” Oliver said.

A second issue is whether the defense was trying to get media attention for its own benefit.

“When you hand a client over to Bob Costas, a good argument could be made that this is not for the sake of helping the client — this was to raise the profile of the defense lawyer,” Oliver said.

Amendola has said public opinion was so slanted against Sandusky early on that he felt forced to try unconventional ways to counter that.

Epstein said that when it comes to appeals, there are the questions of if the court made an error and whether that error was harmless. If an appellate court decides that something should not have been allowed, it still has to look at the trial overall and ask whether that error did harm and had an impact on jury deliberations, Epstein said.

 

Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy.

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