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Sandusky to Pursue Legal Option to Overturn Child Sexual Abuse Conviction

by on June 30, 2014 9:30 AM

Jerry Sandusky, a convicted pedophile, is pursuing one final legal option to overturn his conviction, according to his attorney.

Defense attorney Al Lindsay of Butler recently notified Centre County court that he is representing Sandusky. Lindsay said in an email to StateCollege.com he will represent Sandusky with a post conviction relief petition.

The Post Conviction Relief Act in Pennsylvania allows convicted defendants to challenge their sentences based on an argument of poor legal representation.

State College defense attorney Matt McClenahen, who is not affiliated with the case, says the option is available for wrongfully convicted defendants and is often utilized by defendants sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty as a final legal option.

"It's a remedy that you have if you're a defendant and you've been convicted and you've exhausted all your appeal rights, or wish to forgo appeal rights, you can allege your attorney was ineffective in someway preventing you from having a fair trial," says McClenahen. "The defendant can seek relief if they believe the action or the inaction of the attorney was so ineffective that no accurate determination of guilt or innocence would have been possible."

Issues a defendant might highlight could be an attorney failing to present or object to certain evidence or failing to file particular motions before or during trial, says McClenahen.

McClenahen says the success rate for such a petition is small as most defendants who pursue this path actually did receive fair representation and there was overwhelming evidence to support their convictions.

Sandusky, a former Penn State football coach is serving 30 to 60 years in state prison. In 2012, a jury found him guilty on 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. Some of the abuse occurred on Penn State's campus. So far, Penn State has reached monetary settlements with 26 people claiming to be victims for a total of $59.7 million. After trial, Jerry and Dottie Sandusky's adopted son, Matt Sandusky, publicly claimed to be one of Sandusky's victims.

During trial, defense attorneys Joe Amendola of State College and Karl Rominger of Carlisle represented Sandusky.

In April, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to hear Sandusky's case. Norris Gelman, Sandusky's appeal attorney, had asked for a new trial, arguing it took Sandusky's accusers too long to come forward.

At a Superior Court appeals hearing, Gelman said many of Sandusky's victims waited 16 years to say they were abused. Gelman also claimed the defense wasn't given enough time to prepare its case.

Additionally, Gelman argued the prosecutor's closing argument at Sandusky's criminal trial could have inappropriately influenced the jury when he pointed out that Sandusky didn't take the stand. Criminal defendants are not required to testify at trial.

In March, Sandusky's wife, Dottie, gave interviews with national reporters in which she proclaimed her husband's innocence, a move that outraged victim advocate groups across the country. Recently, their son, Matt, started a non-profit group to support survivors of child sexual abuse.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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