HARRISBURG, Pa. — Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is expected to appear in a Pennsylvania courtroom Thursday for a hearing about whether his lawyers had enough time to prepare for trial.
The proceeding in Bellefonte was scheduled to take up a set of legal challenges filed by Sandusky’s lawyers over how he was tried and convicted, including their claim that a deluge of prosecution materials swamped the defense.
Judge John Cleland issued an order last week for county deputies to bring Sandusky, 68, to the hearing. Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence after being convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. He maintains his innocence.
Unlike the trial and sentencing, electronics of all kinds will be barred from the courtroom, under an order Cleland issued, citing violations of previous courtroom decorum rules by reporters.
In a recent brief, Sandusky’s lawyers say the state Supreme Court has ruled that defense attorneys have to undertake “reasonable investigations” or make decisions that those investigations aren’t needed.
“Given the vast amount of material the prosecution turned over at the 11th hour, it is clear counsel could not come close to fulfilling this obligation,” wrote attorneys Joe Amendola and Norris Gelman. “Counsel had no time to review the aforesaid material in search of persons who could testify to the poor reputation for truthfulness on the part of any of the complainants, any alibi, or any connection between the complainants that would impair their credibility.”
The defense lawyers asked for the hearing to develop that issue with testimony and exhibits as they seek a new trial.
The attorney general’s office argues in a brief last week that Sandusky and his attorney knew in 2008 that there had been a report of a sexual assault, there was no breakdown in communication between them, and the case rested on the credibility of the victims.
Sandusky “identifies not a single act that counsel could have performed or a single piece of information that would have been learned with more time before trial that would have had any impact whatsoever on the jury’s consideration of the evidence,” wrote prosecutor James Barker.
The defense lawyers also are challenging hearsay testimony by a janitorial supervisor who told jurors that a co-worker had seen Sandusky raping a boy known as Victim 8, who has never been identified by authorities. And they argue that Cleland should have issued jury instructions on how long it took victims to report their abuse and on general and nonspecific charges that can be dismissed.
“In this case, the commonwealth established the dates to the extent feasible, given that the events took place over a number of years and involved a number of young victims,” Barker responded. “In both the criminal informations and in other materials provided to the defense, the commonwealth narrowed the scope of the timeframe as to each victim and permitted Sandusky to raise his defense.”