Sandusky hearing focuses on fairness of trial

Jerry Sandusky contends his lawyers did not have enough time to prepare for the trial that resulted in a 45-count guilty verdict in June.

Gene J. Puskar/AP
Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (c.) arrives at the Centre County Courthouse for a post-sentence motion in Bellefonte, Pa., Jan. 2013. Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence after being convicted in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse.

The judge who sentenced Jerry Sandusky to at least 30 years in prison will hear his lawyers and prosecutors argue over whether the former Penn State assistant football coach got a fair trial.

A smiling Sandusky, making his first public appearance in three months, arrived at the courthouse shortly before 9 a.m. Thursday. He contends his lawyers did not have enough time to prepare for the trial that resulted in a 45-count guilty verdict in June.

The hearing Thursday in Bellefonte was expected to delve into the legal challenges filed by Sandusky'slawyers, including their claim that a deluge of prosecution materials swamped the defense.

He is serving his sentence at Greene State Prison in the state's southwest corner, nearly 200 miles away. The 68-year-old Sandusky maintains his innocence.

In a recent brief, Sandusky's lawyers said 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 argued 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. They argue that Judge John Cleland should have issued jury instructions on how long it took victims to report their abuse.

And they say some of the charges were so general and nonspecific that they should have been 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."

Gelman said Sandusky has waived other claims that were brought up in a defense filing made shortly after he was sentenced. Those issues include whether the statute of limitations had run out on some of the charges, whether his sentence was excessive and whether jurors should have been sequestered.

The judge can rule from the bench or issue a written decision later, Gelman said.

Unlike the trial and sentencing, electronic devices of all kinds were barred from the courtroom Thursday under an order Cleland issued, citing violations of previous courtroom decorum rules by reporters.

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