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Jerry Sandusky: Will he testify in his own defense?

June 20, 2012|By Michael Muskal

As the defense heads into what is expected to be its last day of presenting testimony, jurors will get an answer to a question that has been floating around the trial since the first day of jury selection about two weeks ago: Will Jerry Sandusky take the stand in his defense?

Defense attorney Joe Amendola hinted in his opening statement that Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, might testify. Some media reports indicate that Sandusky will testify, even though it will probably open him up to a difficult cross-examination.

PHOTOS: Who's who in the Sandusky case

Amendola has not revealed his plans, but he has heightened the drama. When he arrived at court on Tuesday, he was asked whether his client would testify.

“Stay tuned,” the lawyer replied. “Come on, it's like a soap, you have to wait and see.”

“Is it 'Days of our Lives?'" a reporter asked.

“I think it's 'General Hospital,’" Amendola replied in an exchange caught on video.

Then, a moment later, after returning from parking his car, he quipped, “Actually it could be 'All My Children.’"

There is no legal necessity for Sandusky to testify. Indeed, there are constitutional protections if the defense decides he shouldn’t. The jury cannot infer anything, one way or the other, if he chooses to exercise his rights and not take the stand.

The defense has presented a direct case this week and has used its cross-examination of the prosecution witness to further its goal. Lawyers have tried to create doubt about the quality of the police investigation and focused on undermining the witnesses’ credibility on details. Defense lawyers have implied that the some of the accusers are acting out of greed, looking ahead to civil court cases.

However, in this type of case, where there is no forensic evidence, it often comes down to the accusers’ words versus the defendant’s. If Sandusky chooses to remain silent, who is speaking in his defense?

On Tuesday, Sandusky's wife, Dottie, tried to fill that role. She testified that she had never seen him act inappropriately with boys he brought to their home in State College, Penn.

Jerry Sandusky faces 51 charges of abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period.

Dottie Sandusky told her own versions of what happened in two cases where accusers said she was nearby. In addition to rebutting two stories, she said she knew several of the accusers, some well. She described some of the accusers as “clingy.”

The defense also presented an expert witness who said he had diagnosed Jerry Sandusky as having histrionic personality disorder, a condition the defense said involved overly dramatic gestures such as giving gifts and send love notes to one of the accusers.

Those actions, which the prosecution alleges are acts of a pedophile grooming victims, are just symptoms of a condition over which Jerry Sandusky has no control, according to the defense.

Jurors will soon learn whether he chooses to control the witness box.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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