Jerry Sandusky Has A Couple Of Legal Advantages Over His Accusers, Thanks To Ass-Backward Pennsylvania Law [UPDATE]

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Things may not be as grim for Jerry Sandusky as they seem, Philadelphia Weekly informs us today. The reasons for that are codified into Pennsylvania law:

1.) Trial judges are required to instruct jurors to factor in how long it took for victims to report their allegations of sex abuse to authorities, even though that time difference is known to have no relevance to the truth of their claims.

2.) Expert testimony in sex assault cases is not permitted.

Regarding the former, here is the text of the relevant statute for juror instruction, per Philadelphia Weekly:

The evidence of [name of victim]'s [failure to complain] [delay in making a complaint] does not necessarily make [his] [her] testimony unreliable, but may remove from it the assurance of reliability accompanying the prompt complaint or outcry that the victim of a crime such as this would ordinarily be expected to make.


Now, there have been numerous reports that sexual assault victims are unlikely to come forward right away, with The New York Times even reporting that the grand jury's subpoena power is what finally compelled a number of Sandusky's alleged victims to tell investigators their stories. And, as the PW story notes, "there is no proven correlation between delay in reporting assault and an alleged victim's likelihood to tell the truth."

Pennsylvania, unlike many other states, has a full-time state legislature. That lawmaking branch has a whopping 253 members. It had no trouble giving itself a pay raise in the dark of night a few years back. But it can't be bothered to move quickly to change a stupid, antiquated law like that.


The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that prohibits the use of expert testimony in a sex abuse case. I'll let Philadelphia Weekly's Tara Murtha explain why that prohibition is stupid:

Without an expert to set the jury straight on the sometimes counterintuitive ways a "typical" victim of sexual assault may respond—keeping it a secret; believing an assailant's emotionally manipulative declarations of love; responding to the assailant's efforts to continue the relationship—the jury is ill-equipped to place a victim's testimony into proper context.

Instead of using what we know from decades of research to give jurors context to analyze alleged victims' testimony, juries are left to make judgments from unfair, and largely incorrect, societal biases.


According to Murtha, a bill that would allow expert witnesses to testify in sex abuse cases has passed the state House in Pennsylvania by a 197-0 margin. But it's been sitting in committee in the state Senate since June. Stewart Greenleaf, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, took time out from his busy schedule to explain to Murtha that he was still looking at it, saying he wants to "fine-tune" it. That he has such reservations at a time like this must be music to Jerry Sandusky's ears.

UPDATED: According to Diane Moyer, the legal director for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Pennsylvania is alone in not allowing expert testimony in sex abuse cases because of precedents established by the state Supreme Court. "They have held that it is within the province of a lay person to understand victim behavior," she told me over the phone. "It is an embarrassment."


PA's Backward Expert-Witness Law Creates Advantage for Jerry Sandusky [Philadelphia Weekly]
Bill would permit experts to testify about sex abuse victim behavior [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]