A Sandusky Postscript: An Ex-Coach with a Doomed Defense

For the past twenty years, I have defended over fifty felony sexual assault cases; both at the trial and appellate levels.  These cases are – without a doubt – some of the most difficult and emotional in the criminal justice system.

From a defense perspective, these cases are among the hardest to prevail in as I have always believed that the average juror believes that no witness would testify about such personal and embarrassing matters as sexual assault if the allegations were not true and the incident(s) did not occur.  As such, this testimony can “stack the deck” against the defendant.  To prevail on sexual assault cases, the defense must come up with material evidence which undermines this often very damaging testimony.  Coming up with this sort of evidence is even harder when more than one alleged victim testifies at trial.

This was one of the inherent problems that Sandusky and his defense encountered throughout Sandusky’s recent trial.  The State presented eight separate victims (now collectively known as the “Sandusky 8”), now adults, who testified in graphic detail as to Sandusky’s seduction and molestation.  Each victim met the former Penn State coach through his charity, The Second Mile, and gave detailed and similar accounts of the ways in which they had been brutalized by Sandusky.  From the accounts of the reporters who listened to the testimony of the “Sandusky 8” in the courtroom, their accounts were unforgettable and compelling.

What solidified the State’s case, however, was a witness even more powerful than the “Sandusky 8”; an independent witness who observed one of the incidents.  Mike McQueary, a former graduate student and assistant football coach at Penn State, provided a powerful piece of evidence that is rare in sexual assault cases: corroboration.  McQueary testified that he observed Sandusky rape a ten to twelve year-old boy in a shower at a football training facility.  While he did not step in to stop the assault, McQueary did report the incident to both his father and the head football coach of Penn State, Joe Paterno, who passed away in January of this year.

The identity of the victim McQueary observed was never determined, but because of what McQueary observed and later reported to the police, Sandusky was charged in the incident.  Therefore, McQueary was able to testify to what he observed and his testimony helped to bolster that of the “Sandusky 8” because it showed a consistent pattern between what he saw and the events testified to by the “Sandusky 8”

As all can see, the state of Pennsylvania had a strong and compelling case against Sandusky.  His defense was unable to effectively cross-examine the witnesses to throw any substantial doubt on their accounts.  As such, no one was surprised when the jury returned a verdict of guilty for forty-five of the forty-eight charges brought against him.

The only question that remains is whether the state will bring additional charges against two former Penn State officials – former Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz – who have been indicted for perjury and failing to report a crime.

If you have legal questions regarding a criminal matter, contact Columbus criminal defense lawyer Joe Edwards at 614-309-0243.  Attorney Edwards has over 25 years of experience representing individuals at the state and federal levels, including sexually oriented cases such as sexual assault charges and child pornography defense.

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