An attorney for Jerry Sandusky appeared before a panel of judges Tuesday, requesting a new trial for the former Penn State assistant football coach in his sexual child abuse case.
The arguments made by appeals attorney Norris Gelman on behalf of Sandusky included claims that his defense did not have enough time to prepare for trial, that prosecutors made improper statements during trial and that the trial judge mishandled jury instructions.
Sandusky, 69, is serving a 30-to-60-year sentence in state prison after being convicted last year on dozens of counts of child sexual abuse while at Penn State, where he had been an assistant for decades under Coach Joe Paterno. Sandusky was not present in the courtroom for the hearing Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
Gelman argued in Pennsylvania Superior Court that the trial judge should have instructed jurors to consider the length of time it took Sandusky’s victims to come forward to report the abuse, in some cases more than a decade.
The state attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case, said that jurors were fully informed about the delays and that Sandusky’s attorneys had made clear they believed the victims’ delay indicated they were trying to cash in on the allegations.
The attorney general’s office, in its appeals brief, said the victims had good reason not to disclose the abuse immediately. “Not only were they ashamed of the acts of abuse, but Sandusky gave them gifts … and was a prominent figure who was more likely to be believed than they were.”
Gelman said prosecutors also improperly referenced the fact that Sandusky did not take the stand during trial. Asked whether Sandusky’s defense team had requested a mistrial as a result of the statements, Gelman said no, but added that the offense was “so egregious” that the judge should have acted, regardless.
“When a defendant doesn’t testify, you can’t make any mention of it and consider it a badge of guilt,” Gelman told the Los Angeles Times in a phone interview. “He strengthened the Commonwealth’s case and weakened the defense.”
He also argued that the defense attorney was not given sufficient time to prepare for trial, despite statements from Sandusky trial lawyer Joe Amendola months after the trial that he hadn’t found any evidence that would have changed his approach.
Still, said Gelman, Amendola was deluged with thousands of pages of documents in a matter of weeks.
“He was just trying the case blindly,” Gelman told The Times.
The three-judge panel did not indicate when they would rule.