I understand that many Penn State alums and Centre County residents would like to close the book on Sandusky and put the issue in the rearview mirror, but I wonder if the State College criminal defense lawyer representing Sandusky may have some legitimate issues to pursue on appeal. As Sandusky is basically serving a life sentence for his Centre County conviction, there is a 99.9% chance that he will file an appeal to the Superior Court.
Many people mistakenly believe that an appeal simply claims that the evidence was insufficient to prove someone was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To the contrary, appeals often claim that the trial judge made errors in the pretrial phase of the case, and those errors prevented the criminal defendant from having a fair trial. In Sandusky's case, I do not believe that his State College criminal defense attorney will argue that the Attorney General failed to present sufficient evidence. Instead, I believe that the defense lawyer has a decent argument that the trial judge's failure to grant requests to continue the trial may have violated Sandusky's constitutional rights. Simply stated, if the defense didn't have time to adequately prepare for trial, then the defendant didn't receive a fair trial.
Blair County Murder Conviction Overturned For Denial of Continuance
Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned a murder conviction and held that a Blair County trial judge had committed reversible error by refusing to grant the criminal defense attorney's requests for additional time to prepare for trial. In the case, the criminal defense lawyer commenced representation on October 6th and was required to start a murder trial on October 28th. The Superior Court noted that the murder case involved testimony from many Commonwealth expert witnesses, so the case was something like you would watch on CSI. In order to present a defense, the criminal defense lawyer needed time to have defense experts review the evidence and be prepared to testify. The court stated that the defense experts didn't have time to review the materials and thereby could not provide the defense lawyer with expert opinions. The court stated that criminal defense lawyer's lack of time to prepare violated the defendant's constitutional right to a trial by a jury of his peers.
Distinguishing Sandusky Case from Blair County Murder
While I believe that Sandusky's defense team has a legitimate argument that they needed more time to prepare, I also believe that the Pennsylvania appellate court can readily distinguish the Blair County case from Sandusky's case. The Blair County murder case involved many expert witnesses, and the defense simply didn't have time to retain experts, have them review the reports and then give expert opinions to the criminal defense attorney. The Blair County criminal defense lawyer proceeded to a highly technical and CSI-dominated first degree murder trial in less than one month. Sandusky's case was not as CSI-esque as it did not involve many expert witnesses, and his State College criminal defense attorney had months to prepare for trial, so the prosecution attorney's will argue that comparing Sandusky's case to the Blair County murder case is like comparing apples and oranges.
I admit that I would be surprised if the appellate court overturned Sandusky's conviction, but it is a possibility.