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Jerry Sandusky s quest to reclaim his pre-conviction life got a lot harder with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court s
But the world probably hasn t heard the last of him.
For while the court s latest order effectively shuts the door on the 2012 criminal trial that led to the former Penn State football icon s Sandusky does have other appellate routes open.
The bigger question, defense attorneys agreed Wednesday, is will he ever have the facts to leverage them.
For example, Pennsylvania s Post-Conviction Relief Act gives all criminal convicts a window to revive their cases if they can show a court they ve come up with game-changing evidence that wasn t available at trial.
But in Sandusky s case - a historical prosecution that was never built on physical evidence in the first place - there is no trove of DNA-based evidence that is going to clear him.
And the conspiracy theory that Sandusky s victims concocted a story because they saw a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Good luck developing that now that
The point, said defense attorney William Costopoulos, who famously helped reverse the homicide conviction of one-time high school principal Jay Smith in the 1990s, is that the mountain is very steep at this hour.
Many believe Sandusky will likely continue the climb.
First and foremost, he still, publicly at least, has maintained his innocence of any crimes.
Unlike many state prison inmates, he is not destitute. And if he is the Sandusky family would likely have the funds to pursue a legal defense for many years to come.
He also has at least one ally, self-styled documentary film-maker John Ziegler, who has taken a keen personal interest in the Sandusky case and has vowed to keep exploring it.
In an e-mail Wednesday, Ziegler called the court s decision absurd but expected given the political environment surrounding the case and the weight of public condemnation of Sandusky.
But said he will soldier on.
I am more convinced than ever that a massive injustice has been done to nearly everyone in this case and that it s not even that close a call, he wrote.
To others, Wednesday s decision felt just right.
I am happy to see the Supreme Court in Pennsylvania uphold this verdict, said Christopher Anderson, executive director of Male Survivor, a support and advocacy group for child sex abuse victims.
Sandusky was afforded all the due process rights he should have been, his attorneys had ample time to prepare, and he chose in the end to not speak in his own defense. The jury came quickly to a unanimous and proper decision.
What s next in the case?
That was immediately unknowable Wednesday because Sandusky s attorney, Norris Gelman was not available for comment.
But here s a quick look at some of the options.
The Post-Conviction Relief Act: Primarily used in cases where either bad decisions by trial lawyers or newly-discovered evidence can be brought to light, and shown to have had a high degree of changing the outcome of the trial.
In the Harrisburg area, a 2001 PCRA petition was famously used to help free 1974 homicide convict Steven Crawford after notes were discovered contradicting a state police chemist's testimony tying Crawford to the crime scene.
The big problem for most convicts?
"There has to be something there, noted Harrisburg attorney William Fetterhoff.
Habeus Corpus petition to U.S. District Court:
This could be pursued down the road if Sandusky s defense can make an argument that there were egregious Constitutional violations in his case that weren t corrected at the state level.
Some said the defense might try that with Sandusky trial attorney Joe Amendola's complaints that he was rushed to court. "It s not at all unheard of for the district court to take a very fresh look at procedural issues of that kind, Fetterhoff said.
But the problem with Sandusky s case is that that issue got a test-run in the initial post-trial proceedings in Centre County. Amendola conceded then that, after a subsequent review of late evidence,
So the prosecution may well be able to argue that issue has been fully litigated.
Direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court:
Lawyers here see that as the slimmest chance of all, given the tiny percentage of cases that the Supremes ever take on for review.
Pennsylvania s Victim Advocate, Jennifer Storm, said Wednesday that when it comes to the next chapter of this case she ll be personally hoping Sandusky chooses none of the above.
Contending that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court s decision should put a stamp of finality on the credibility of the eight men who testified against Sandusky at trial, Storm said for them I think it s a great day.
It would be an even better day, she added, if he (Sandusky) just went quietly and accepted the verdict that was rendered and stopped this insane, ongoing attack on the integrity of these brave young men.
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