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October 2, 2013

Appeals court denies Sandusky new trial

HARRISBURG —  Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky should not get a new trial after being convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys, a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The unanimous decision by a three-judge Superior Court panel came barely two weeks after they heard oral arguments by Sandusky’s lawyer and a state prosecutor.

Defense lawyer Norris Gelman said he planned to ask the state Supreme Court to review the case.

Sandusky had argued his trial lawyers did not have sufficient time to prepare, a prosecutor made improper references to him not testifying on his own behalf and the judge mishandled two jury instructions.

The opinion by Judge Jack Panella said trial judges have discretion about whether to allow pretrial delays, and that in Sandusky’s case the judge carefully considered the continuance requests.

“The decision does not reflect a myopic insistence upon expeditiousness in the face of Sandusky’s request; it was not an arbitrary denial,” Panella wrote.

Sandusky had wanted the trial judge, John Cleland, to give jurors an instruction about the amount of time it took for nearly all of the victims to report their allegations. Panella wrote that Cleland should have evaluated the need for such a jury instruction based on each victim’s age and maturity, but Cleland’s failure to do so did not harm Sandusky.

“The trial court specifically instructed the jury that they were to consider any possible motives of the victims in coming forward,” Panella wrote. “The vigorous cross-examination of the victims and arguments by defense counsel, when combined with the trial court’s instructions on credibility, clearly defined the issues for the jury.”

The issue related to Sandusky not testifying was not properly preserved for appeals court review, Panella wrote.

The appeals court also turned down another jury instruction claim, related to weighing a defendant’s good character against the allegations.

Sandusky, 69, is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence at a state prison in southwestern Pennsylvania. If he does not get the convictions overturned, he is likely to die in prison.

Messages left for a spokesman for the attorney general’s office were not immediately returned.

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