The child molestation case against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was in the headlines almost every day during his trial in 2012, which eventually ended up as a conviction. There hadn’t been much news coverage in the years since, until recently when Sandusky filed an appeal in the case. CNN reported that new attorneys are seeking a new trial because his former lawyers committed errors and made poor decisions during the previous proceedings. The appeal of the child molestation conviction raises interesting issues on what a defendant must prove in order to obtain a new trial on the grounds of bad lawyering.
Sandusky’s Path to Prison: After a grand jury investigation into the molestation claims of several individuals, Sandusky was arrested and charged with dozens of counts of sexual abuse spanning 15 years. During his eight-day trial that began in June 2012, several victims testified for the prosecution; the witness list included Sandusky’s adopted son, who claimed that he was also a victim of sexual abuse as a child. The prosecutor’s approach to the trial was to call the younger Sandusky to rebut testimony in the event that his adoptive father took the witness stand. Jerry Sandusky did not testify at the trial, so his son was never called.
After two days of deliberations, the jury convicted Sandusky on 45 counts of sexual abuse and he was sentenced to up to 60 years in prison.
Grounds for Appeal: In filing his appeal, Sandusky cites a number of instances that he argues amount to poor handling of a criminal case. To overturn a conviction based upon ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must prove:
· That his attorney’s performance fell below a minimum objective standard; and,
· That the attorney’s unprofessional errors were so severe that it’s reasonably likely the result would be different had they not occurred.
In the Sandusky case, he must convince the appeals court that his previous attorneys acted unprofessionally as compared to other lawyers faced with similar circumstances. Then, he’ll have to show that, if it were not for these errors, Sandusky would not have been convicted.
There are two key points his new attorneys are presenting to the court as proof of ineffective counsel.
1. The prior lawyers should have called Sandusky to testify to defend against the testimony of the victims; and,
2. They should have filed a motion to block the adopted son from testifying if Sandusky took the witness stand; and,
Sandusky did finally testify at the appeals hearing in August 2016, stating that he absolutely did not engage in any conduct that amounted to sexual abuse. The proceedings are still pending and, if successful, Sandusky may get a new trial or have his conviction overturned.
In San Diego, appealing your criminal case on the grounds that your previous attorneys mishandled the case is a tough burden. Still, if your lawyer’s errors and bad judgment in defending your rights made it impossible to get a fair trial, you may be able to obtain a new trial to present your case. To ensure your rights are fully protected, please contact a knowledgeable criminal attorney in San Diego to discuss the appeals process and trial process in California.
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