Pennsylvania Superior Court panel: No new trial for Jerry Sandusky

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Just two weeks after hearing oral argument as to why Jerry Sandusky should be granted a new trial in his child sexual abuse case, a three-judge panel from the state Superior Court Wednesday issued a 19-page opinion explaining why he should not.

The judges rejected each of the issues outlined by the former Penn State University football coach's attorney at argument in Wilkes-Barre on Sept. 17, including that it was reversible error for the trial judge, John M. Cleland, to deny the defense motion for a postponement because they had insufficient time to prepare for the case.

Sandusky was charged in November 2011 and went to trial on 48 counts in June 2012. He was found guilty on all but three charges against him and was sentenced last October to 30 to 90 years in prison.

Judge Cleland denied three separate requests for a continuance. "While June 5th does present its problems, on balance and considering all the interests involved -- the defendant's right to a fair trial, the alleged victims' right [to] their day in court, the commonwealth's obligation to prosecute promptly, and the public's expectation that justice will be timely done -- no date will necessarily present a better alternative."

Superior Court judges Jack A. Panella, Sallie Updyke Mundy and William H. Platt found no constitutional error.

"The trial court's explanation denotes a careful consideration of the matter. The decision does not reflect a myopic insistence upon expeditiousness in the face of Sandusky's request; it was not an arbitrary denial," the judges wrote.

Even if there had been an error, the panel continued, it would have been harmless since at a post-sentence motion hearing, trial attorney Joseph Amendola said that even after reviewing all of the discovery and evidence following the verdict, he found not a single item that would have changed the course of how he prepared the case.

"As evidenced by counsel's own testimony, Sandusky suffered no prejudice from the trial court's denial of the continuance requests."

Other appellate issues raised by Sandusky included the jury instruction given by Judge Cleland related to character evidence and whether the court erred in failing to give the jury the "prompt complaint instruction" related to the length of time it takes for a victim to come forward. In this case, all but one victim waited for years before going to police. Delays ranged from two years to 16.

"The instruction permits a jury to call into question a complainant's credibility when he or she did not complain at the first available opportunity," the panel wrote. "However, there is no policy in our jurisprudence that the instruction be given in every case."

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Paula Reed Ward: First Published October 2, 2013 3:30 PM


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