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Sandusky Trial: Legal Experts Say First Five Minutes Critical to Case, According to Report

by on June 10, 2012 4:53 PM

Legal experts told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the first five minutes of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse trial could be the most important.

Prosecutors plan to come out swinging with the strongest evidence they have, the newspaper reported, that will link former Penn State assistant football coach Sandusky to the abuse he is alleged to have subjected at least 10 boys to during a 15-year period. 

"The jury is hearing this case once and for the first time," Bruce Antkowiak, who teaches law and criminology at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., and is a former federal prosecutor and defense lawyer, told the Tribune-Review in a story published Sunday.

"There has not been a preliminary hearing here; there has not been anything on specifics of the case in the media. The opening statement is critical. You try to start strong, and you try to finish strong." 

Other legal experts discussed how the rest of the witnesses might follow suit if the first witness is adamant. 

Donna McClelland, a lawyer with McClelland Law Group in Pittsburgh and a former Greensburg prosecutor and deputy attorney general talked about the "first five minutes' concept."

"They teach trial tactics 101 that you start with your strongest case; whoever wins the jury over in the first five minutes wins the case," she said. 

Michael Streib, a trial tactics professor at Duquesne University, said imagery is imperative in a case with little physical evidence. 

"Lawyers are fighting for imagery," he said.  "You want to fight to capture that imagery early. Once people get an image in their heads, it is very hard to shake it." 

Opening arguments start Monday morning in Courtroom 1 at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte. Prosecutors plan to have Victim 4 testify

Sandusky, 68, faces 52 counts in a child sexual abuse case and maintains his innocence.



Laura Nichols is a StateCollege.com news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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