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Sandusky appeal raises uncertainty for victims

Pennsylvania readers who have been following the legal developments surrounding former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky may have heard of the most recent development: Sandusky has requested that a judge allow him to use subpoena power to examine, among other things, potential wrongdoing in connection with the grand jury process that led to charges of molestation back. The filing is part of fairly broad appeal which includes allegations that his trial attorney didn’t represent him effectively and that there were problems with the grand jury process.

The discovery requests Sandusky made in Sandusky’s filing relate to an alleged false statement by the prosecutor in connection with one of the witnesses/victims in his case, as well as a report from the attorney hired to investigate and prosecute leaks from the grand jury that recommended charges against him. Sandusky’s filing makes the claim that there was a “systemic breakdown of the grand jury process” which may have tainted the case.

In addition, Sandusky’s filing also requests access to agreements between six victims/witnesses and their private civil attorneys. The argument is that the testimony of those witnesses might have been tainted if it can be shown that their attorneys agreed not to charge any fees in exchange for a portion of settlement money. Such agreements, it is argued, would demonstrate financial motive for the witnesses/victims to testify against Sandusky, and the jury should have been informed of them.

It remains to be seen how successful Sandusky’s appeal will be. Do his claims have merit or is he grasping at straws? For the victims in his case, of course, the appeal could result in a painful reopening of wounds as the credibility of their trial testimony is scrutinized. For victims of abuse, the appeal is a reminder of the uncertainties involved in the appeals process, as well as the importance of working with an experienced advocate to ensure their rights are protected.

Sources:, “Sandusky wants subpoena power to look into 2011 case leaks,” Mark Scolforo, Sept. 30, 2015., “Sandusky Files Wide-Reaching Discovery Request in Appeal,” Zach Berger, Sept. 29, 2015. 

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