The case against Jerry Sandusky seems strong, but Sandusky’s defense team may have found an angle. In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge John Cleland rejected the defense’s request for more information about the allegations against Sandusky. His reason:
The defense in the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse case will not be receiving more details about the alleged assaults because prosecutors have said they can’t produce such information, the judge in the case ruled Tuesday.
Judge John Cleland dismissed the defense request for “a more certain bill of particulars,” arguing that it was moot. In his decision, Cleland noted that the prosecution says it lacks details beyond those already supplied.
Any order requiring details that don’t exist would be “futile,” Cleland wrote.
The prosectors explained why they were unable to give that information:
In the Bellefonte courtroom on Monday, prosecutor Joseph McGettigan said additional details were not available because the purported victims were children, the events traumatized them, some have emotional and psychological difficulties and the alleged behavior included efforts to conceal it.
McGettigan told Cleland that other discovery materials handed over to Amendola have provided some more detail, but Amendola said they did not include information that might help him develop a defense based on alibi, statute of limitations, double jeopardy or other grounds.
As we do not know what evidence the prosecutors have, it is difficult to say how much this will impact their case. Children often have a hard time remembering times and dates, let alone recalling them after traumatic events. Most of the victims in this case are young adults, so one must add in the potential time gap between the alleged events and when they gave statements to the prosecutors. It does not make them less credible, but it can present a problem at trial if Amendola can show the victims cannot recall any specifics.
As result of Tuesday’s ruling, Amendola plans to file a motion for dismissal:
“What he’s saying is exactly what the case law says can result in a case being chucked,” Amendola said today. “If the commonwealth can’t be more specific, the defendant can’t adequately present their defense.”
“I intend to file a motion to dismiss the charges against Jerry Sandusky sometime next week,” Amendola said in a statement.
Legally, the prosecutors have some wiggle room with sexual abuse cases involving children, but Amendola has a point. The commonwealth must be specific about the what occurred, when it occurred, and where it occurred in order to maintain charges against someone. If the victims are unable to give even a general time frame and location of when and where the alleged abuse happened, it is difficult to see how the prosecutors could prove their case.
However, as I noted above, we do not know what evidence the commonwealth has or what they shared with the defense. It is possible that this is just posturing by Amendola.
If it is not, if the prosecutors do only have loose accounts of abuse, this might be a problem when things really begin. We may see some charges dropped or reduced in order to get around the burden of proof.