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Sandusky Appeal Denied By Superior Court

Jerry Sandusky’s appeal to overturn the 45 counts of child sexual abuse he was convicted of last year was denied by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania today.

In October 2012, Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years on charges of abuse that took place between 1995 and 2008. The appeal argued that the sentence should be reversed based on four points of contention with the trial.

The first argument in Sandusky’s appeal was that the court should have given the trial jury a “prompt complaint instruction,” informing them of the delays between the abuse and the victims reporting it. The court ruled today that Sandusky waived his right to argue that when he did not object during the trial and ask for the jury to be informed of this matter.

“A charge is considered adequate unless the jury was palpably misled by what the trial judge said or there is an omission which is tantamount to fundamental error,” the filing reads. “Consequently, the trial court has wide discretion in fashioning jury instructions. The trial court is not required to give every charge that is requested by the parties and its refusal to give a requested charge does not require reversal unless the Appellant was prejudiced by that refusal.”

The second argument made for an appeal centered on prosecutor Joseph McGettigan’s comments regarding Sandusky’s decision not to testify.

“The defendant, he had wonderful opportunities to speak out and make his case. He did it in public. He spoke with Bob Costas,” he said during the trial. “I would think that the automatic response when someone asks you if you’re, you know, a criminal, a pedophile, a child molester, or anything along those lines would be, ‘You’re crazy, no,’ instead of, are you sexually attracted to young boys? But that’s Mr. Amendola’s explanation that he automatically repeats questions. I wouldn’t know. I only heard him on TV. Only heard him on TV.”

After closing arguments, Sandusky’s counsel objected and said that the prosecutor committed misconduct by bringing up Sandusky’s decision not to testify. Judge Cleland said that the comments were “fair rebuttal” and that the court had “cautioned the jury again and again that the defendant has no obligation to testify or present evidence in his own defense [and will] caution the jury again.”

Today’s filing says that Sandusky’s failure to request a mistrial because of the supposed misconduct eliminates his ability to ask for an appeal. “Even where a defendant objects to a specific conduct, the failure to request a remedy such as a mistrial or curative instruction is sufficient to constitute waiver,” the filing said.

Sandusky’s third argument for an appeal was that the court refused to grant him and his counsel a continuance, which he said is a Sixth Amendment right to “effective assistance of trial counsel.” A continuance would have given the defense more time to prepare for the trial and would have postponed the start date.

The argument was that this is a “structural defect,” something that requires reversal of a court judgement. Today’s filing disagreed with that notion, rebutting that structural defects “affects the framework within which the trial proceeds and are not simply an error in the trial process itself.” The court’s refusal to issue a continuance falls under the latter category. The decision to order a continuance is at the discretion of the court and can not be used as grounds for an appeal, according to the filing.

Sandusky’s final grounds for an appeal involves his counsel’s argument at trial that “evidence of good character may by itself raise a reasonable doubt of guilt and require a verdict of not guilty.” The court informed the jury, based on Section 3.06 (Defendant’s Character – Reputation), that they “must weigh and consider the evidence of good character along with the other evidence in this case.”

The appeal argues that the basis for a good character argument states that character evidence must be “considered in and of itself,” proclaiming that the court’s jury instructions contradict that by asking them to weigh the character evidence against the other evidence. According to today’s filing, Pennsylvania law asks the jury to consider evidence of good character “in connection with all the other evidence in the  case.”

The filing ends with the following judgement:

“We agree, completely, with the trial court’s reasoning,” it reads. “The trial court properly instructed the jury. Accordingly, Sandusky’s argument fails. Judgment of sentence affirmed.”

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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