Sandusky lawyers raise appeal issue on timing

Associated Press Modified: June 24, 2012 at 10:46 am •  Published: June 24, 2012
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BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Jerry Sandusky's lawyers said they tried to quit at the start of jury selection in his child sex abuse trial because they weren't given enough time to prepare, raising an argument on the trial's speed that could become the thrust of an appeal.

And one of the jurors who convicted Sandusky of 45 child sex abuse counts said Saturday he was swayed by the "very convincing" testimony of eight accusers who said the retired Penn State assistant football coach molested them for years.

"It's hard to judge character on the stand, because you don't know these kids," juror Joshua Harper told NBC's "Today" show. "But most were very credible — I would say all."

A day after Sandusky's conviction, his lawyers disclosed Saturday they felt too unprepared to adequately defend him because of how quickly the case was brought to trial. Experts have said the seven months between Sandusky's November arrest and trial was fast-paced by Pennsylvania standards.

"We told the trial court, the Superior Court and the Supreme Court we were not prepared to proceed to trial in June due to numerous issues, and we asked to withdraw from the case for those reasons," attorney Joe Amendola told The Associated Press.

The issues included a scheduling conflict with a defense team member and the need to read a cache of documents produced by a lengthy grand jury investigation. Judge John Cleland denied their request.

The attorneys raised other issues that could be part of the future appeal, saying a mistrial was sought and denied over a repetition at trial of a brief part of a November interview Sandusky had with NBC's Bob Costas.

Jurors in the two-week trial convicted Sandusky of 45 of the 48 counts against him, meaning Sandusky, 68, likely will die in prison.

Harper said the accusers who testified one by one of horrific abuse at Sandusky's hands were each believable, "but then also the fact that we saw this corroborating story between all of them. It was very convincing."

Then Sandusky's impassive face when the verdict was read was confirmation for the jury, he said.

"I looked at him during the reading of the verdict and just the look on his face. No real emotion," he said, "because he knew it was true."

Harper said jurors had some issues with the testimony of Mike McQueary, a then-assistant who said he saw Sandusky assaulting a boy in the Penn State showers in 2001; jurors acquitted Sandusky on one count relating to the incident.

The case is poised to move to an investigation of university officials' role in reporting the charges; two ex-school administrators face trial on charges they didn't properly report McQueary's account of the suspected abuse in 2001.

Almost immediately after the verdict, Penn State President Rodney Erickson signaled an openness to quickly settle potential civil lawsuits arising from the convictions, saying the school "wants to provide a forum where the university can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims' concerns and compensate them for claims."

The university recently reported a $1.8 billion endowment. But both sides have reasons not to want to go to court, said Jason Kutulakis, a Harrisburg-area lawyer who specializes in child welfare and juvenile law. Victims are reluctant to get on the stand and have their credibility attacked, he said.