Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach facing blistering sex offense allegations, will appear in court on Tuesday December 13th for his preliminary hearing.
It was reported today that as many as six of his accusers will testify at the hearing. According to an attorney for one of the alleged victims, prosecutors approached him and asked that his client testify at the hearing. Joe Amendola, Sandusky’s attorney, stated that he expects all six of the alleged victims identified in the indictment to testify. “Although the preliminary hearing is not a trial, but simply a probable cause proceeding, and will not provide Jerry with an opportunity to present his defense, we will, for the very first time, have the opportunity to face Jerry’s accusers and question them under oath about their allegations,” Amendola said. “We look forward to this opportunity.” Also expected to testify is Mike McQueary, another former assistant coach who claims that he witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in a locker room shower in 2002.
The defense is being given an enormous opportunity here that is not often afforded to defendants facing sex offense allegations. Rarely do defendants in these cases have the ability to cross examine the alleged victims in a pretrial or preliminary hearing. In most jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, hearsay is admissible at the preliminary hearing and, therefore, the prosecution can meet its relatively low burden of proof without subjecting its witnesses and alleged victims to cross examination.
In defending sex offense allegations, our primary concern is to discover all of the circumstances surrounding the initial disclosure of abuse and then documenting the evolution of the accuser’s statements leading up to his or her testimony in court. Amendola’s cross examination will undoubtedly be geared towards discovering this information as well as any bias or improper motives the accusers may have. With respect to McQueary, the focus should be on documenting the precise details of his alleged observation of sexual abuse (his location inside locker room, total time that he actually witnessed the event, etc.). Another line of questioning should focus on whether McQueary’s observation could have been tainted by rumors he may have heard about Sandusky prior to 2002.
We will continue to follow these developments and report back with any updates prior to the preliminary hearing. Bernard has currently been booked as an on-air guest on CNN International’s Back Story to provide expert commentary on the preliminary hearing.
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