Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State sex abuse case is shaping up like the Conrad Murray case. No, Conrad Murray, who was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson had no sex abuse charges; but he had incompetent attorneys and bad lawyer advice much like the Sandusky case. In Murray’s case, his attorney Ed Chernoff was present during the 3 hour statement given by Murray to the police following Michael Jackson’s death. And that statement pretty much sealed the deal for Murray’s conviction. Now, there’s Joe Amendola, Sandusky’s attorney, who not only allows his client to speak to NBC’s Bob Costas in an interview but actually offers him to do so. Originally, Costas, was to have interviewed Sandusky’s attorney. Shortly before the interview, Amendola asked what if he could produce Sandusky by phone for an interview. I’m sure Bob Costas leaped for joy at his good fortune.
The interview questions were simple and to the point. Yet, Sandusky appeared to struggle with the question of whether he was sexually attracted to young boys. It actually took him 17 seconds before he finally answered that no, he was not. Sandusky acknowledged taking showers with young boys and “horsing” around. “I didn’t go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I’ve helped,” Sandusky said. “There are many that I didn’t have – I hardly had any contact with who I helped in many, many ways.”
Don’t take my word for it, listen to the tape. Sandusky Interview With Bob Costas
In the world of criminal law, it is rule 1 that you do not allow or volunteer a client for an interview after indictment or during investigation to speak on the charges and the facts of the case. While the statement in Sandusky’s case was not given to the police, it serves the same purpose; The prosecution will be able to play the tape at the trial of the case. And it won’t sound good. That’s exactly what happened in the Conrad Murray case.
Sandusky’s attorney said he wanted his client to give his view of the facts. Well, in a criminal prosecution, the prosecution has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant bears no responsibility to prove his or her innocence in a court of law. And a defendant should not risk his liberty by giving a statement proclaiming innocence in the court of public opinion. It will only help the prosecutor prove guilt.
I’ve been asked why would Sandusky’s attorney allow him to freely give a statement to the media. First, I thought the lawyer was not able to control the client and that Sandusky did it against his lawyer’s advice. Now we find out that the idea was that of the lawyer. Attorney Amendola said his client was guilty in the court of public opinion and an interview might help change the perception.
While I don’t want to give advice to Sandusky, I suggest he might seriously consider firing his present lawyer and hiring a competent one. This is the big leagues. And if convicted of 40 counts at his age, I doubt if he’ll see the light of day outside prison again. But then again, maybe he should keep his attorney.
While Sandusky has a lawyer, Mike McQueary needs to hire one. McQueary is sending E-mails to friends proclaiming facts that he did not tell the grand jury. He’s doing this much for the same reason that Sandusky spoke on the record, to attempt to prove he did the right thing. Regardless of whether he called the police or not during the alleged victim’s sex abuse encounter, he should seek advice of counsel and remain silent until called to testify as a witness.
Former Penn State President Graham Spanier has been keeping his mouth shut since being fired. And former coach Joe Paterno has done mostly the same. Joe Paterno powered up with high profile Washington attorney J. Sedgwick Sollers, who represented George W. Bush. I doubt if Joe Paterno will be giving any statements.
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Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal commentator appearing in national and local media including CNN, the Michael Eric Dyson Show, XM Sirius radio, NBC , ABC and CBS -Washington, DC affiliates, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on gender and race in law and politics. She also writes for the Huffington Post.