Superior Court denies Jerry Sandusky’s bid for new trial

mdawson@centredaily.comOctober 2, 2013 

062212DUSKY20

Jerry Sandusky leaves the courthouse Thursday, June 21, 2012, following the closing arguments of his sexual abuse trial, at the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte, Pa. Nabil K. Mark

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Convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky’s request for a retrial has been shot down by the state’s Superior Court.

The judges issued a 19-page opinion Wednesday that held up Sandusky’s 30-year sentence and rejected the arguments his lawyer made during an appeal hearing last month in the hope of reversing the verdict and getting his client a new trial. It was a quick decision, having come just 15 days after the defense and prosecuting attorneys gave oral arguments in front of the panel of three judges.

Sandusky’s lawyer, Norris Gelman, said he plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court within 30 days and raise the same issues that were argued before the Superior Court panel. He declined further comment.

Among the claims, Gelman had argued that a prosecutor’s comments about Sandusky giving an interview to NBC’s Bob Costas shortly after allegations were announced but not taking the stand at his own trial would make the jury think he was guilty.

But the Superior Court justices said the trial defense lawyers didn’t object to the comments by prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan III, and as a result, they did not properly preserve the right to include the claim in their appeal.

“Sandusky did not move for a mistrial or request a curative instruction; he merely lodged an objection,” Justice Jack Panella wrote in the opinion. “As such, this claim is not preserved for appellate review.”

The justices also concluded that trial Judge John Cleland did not make any errors, as the defense had said in their appeals, when he denied the defense’s multiple requests to continue the trial. Defense lawyer Joe Amendola has said he was besieged by thousands of pages of documents and did not have time to analyze everything before trial.

Cleland had said he struck down the continuance requests because he took into account Sandusky’s right to a fair trial, the victims’ right to have a day in court, the state’s obligation for a prompt prosecution and the public’s expectation of justice in a timely manner.

Amendola testified during an appeal before Cleland that, after reviewing the documents after the trial, he did not find anything that would have changed his strategy during the trial.

“The decision does not reflect a myopic insistence upon expeditiousness in the face of Sandusky’s request; it was not an arbitrary denial,” Panella wrote. “Therefore, we can find no constitutional error, nor abuse of discretion, in the denial of the continuance requests.”

The appeal also claimed that Cleland mishandled giving instructions to the 12 jurors who deliberated, and the Superior Court did agree that the trial judge did not follow case law when he told the jury they could not consider that it took most of the victims years to come forward about being abused. One of Sandusky’s defenses at trial was that the victims only claimed they were abused so they could seek financial gain.

The justices concluded, though, that the absence of that instruction did not prejudice the jury against Sandusky.

“The trial court specifically instructed the jury that they were to consider any possible motives of the victims in coming forward,” Panella wrote. “The vigorous cross-examination of the victims and arguments by defense counsel, when combined with the trial court’s instructions on credibility, clearly defined the issues for the jury.”

Sandusky is serving his sentence in solitary confinement in the state prison in Greene County.

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.

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