Sandusky lawyers say they needed more time for trial
January 11, 2013 5:00 AM
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, center, leaves the Centre County Courthouse on Thursday, escorted by Centre County Sheriff Denny Nau, left, after attending a post-sentence motion hearing in Bellefonte.
By Karen Langley Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Grinning in his red prison jumpsuit, Jerry Sandusky appeared in court Thursday as his attorneys argued they had too little time to prepare for the June trial that found the former Penn State University assistant football coach guilty on 45 counts of sexually abusing children.
His lawyers are contending the trial was unfair because some of the thousands of pages of documents -- including discovery turned over by prosecutors and transcripts from the grand jury -- arrived too close to trial. Norris Gelman, an attorney for Sandusky, told the court that trial attorney Joe Amendola was essentially "driving blind."
But on cross-examination, Mr. Amendola could not name a single document he had reviewed since trial that would have altered his approach.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina emphasized that point as he argued that Mr. Amendola was an experienced lawyer who had ably represented his client.
"By Mr. Amendola's own words, there was no prejudice at that trial," he said.
Sandusky, who is serving a 30- to 60-year term at the State Correctional Institution Greene, entered the courtroom about a half-hour before the hearing and waved, smiling, to family and friends seated in the front.
He conferred with his attorney before the hearing and occasionally looked over documents, but he did not address the court.
In the months before the trial, defense attorneys repeatedly asked McKean County Senior Judge John M. Cleland for a delay.
At the hearing Thursday, Judge Cleland asked what harm had been caused by a rush to prepare, since Mr. Amendola testified he had not since uncovered anything that would have changed how he conducted the defense.
Mr. Gelman responded that sufficient opportunity to prepare is necessary for a trial to be fair. Outside the courthouse, he elaborated, describing a hypothetical scenario in which Mr. Amendola is compelled to defend Sandusky without reviewing any case materials.
"If Joe would have cross-examined the witnesses and then looked over all the discovery and said, you know, there's very little I would have done differently, the mere fact he was prevented from preparing would be enough to reverse, because it made the trial subject to structural error," Mr. Gelman said.
Speaking to reporters a few moments later, Mr. Fina disputed that reading of the law.
"The law is not what somebody's opinion is about whether they've looked at every document thoroughly," he said. "The law is whether or not there's anything they can point to that they failed to do in the actual trial that affected the adversarial process. And as Mr. Amendola said, there was nothing."
He said Pennsylvanians should feel confident the conviction will stand. Mr. Gelman compared his chances of success to making a "long three-point shot" in basketball.
Tom Kline, an attorney representing one of the victims, said Mr. Amendola's testimony showed he was not so hurried as to compromise the trial.
"There is no credible or sensible argument to be made that in some way there was not enough time to have prepared for trial," Mr. Kline said.
Additionally, attorneys for Sandusky argued the judge erred by declining to include in his instructions to the jury comments about the delay between the crimes and complaints by victims.
Judge Cleland asked if a lag did not sometimes occur in reporting such crimes.
Kristen Houser, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said the behavior of victims in the case is consistent with that of other people who were sexually abused as children.
"Truly, delayed reporting in any case of child sexual abuse is the norm," she said. "Most people don't report it. They're well into adulthood before they seek help. Many of these men frankly did not report on their own. They were sought out through the course of an investigation."
In September, Penn State retained a high-profile mediator, Kenneth Feinberg, to negotiate settlements with victims. Mr. Kline said he has had hours of discussions with Mr. Feinberg and his business partner, Michael Rozen, and he said there appears to be "good potential" for a settlement.
"We are making progress, and we are having constructive, forward-moving discussions with Penn State through their lawyers," Mr. Kline said. "It just remains to be seen whether we can continue to make progress. If not, make no mistake about it, there will be a moving forward of the litigation."