As the sentence came down, finding Jerry Sandusky guilty of 45 of the 48 counts, many people wonder why he never took the stand himself. Although there was a copious amount of information given to the jury regarding Sandusky’s alleged conduct, the testimonies that they were spared from hearing were the sexual molestation claims coming from Sandusky’s adopted son, along with Sandusky’s own account of the crimes. According to the Patriot News, who first broke the news of the Sandusky scandal, Sandusky’s adopted 33-year-old son Matt had agreed to testify for the prosecution that he was molested by Sandusky in his childhood.
According to a statement released by local attorneys, Sandusky’s adopted son contacted their offices and “requested our advice and assistance in arranging a meeting with prosecutors to disclose for the first time in this case that he is a victim of Jerry Sandusky's abuse.” The prosecutors requested that Matt be allowed to testify, but Pennsylvania trial court Judge John Cleland did not allow the testimony to be heard.
Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence (PRE) closely mirror the Federal Rules of Evidence, which prohibit the testimony for various reasons. Because Matt had brought the information to the prosecutions attention once the case had already gone to trial, PRE rule 404(b) states that evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts may be permitted for uses such as proving motive, intent or opportunity, but the prosecution must have “provided reasonable notice in advance of trial, or during trial if the court excuses pretrial notice on good cause.” This rule is meant to prevent unfair surprises at trial, while giving defendants a reasonable amount of time to prepare objections or rebuttal. Because Matt did not come forward with these accusations early enough for the defense to prepare, the judge did not allow him to testify on behalf of the prosecution.
In addition to 404(b), PRE Rule 404(a) states that “[e]vidence of a person’s character is not admissible for the purpose of proving action in conformity therewith on a particular occasion, except, in a criminal case, evidence of a pertinent trait of character of the accused is admissible when offered by the accused or by the prosecution to rebut the same.”
In layman’s terms, this rule means that unless the Defense would have allowed Sandusky to testify, the prosecution may not bring in witnesses to attack his character, when no charges have been filed. This rule provides a defendant with the choice of putting their own character in question. If Sandusky had taken the stand and referenced his character in some way, the Prosecution would have been allowed to bring Matt to the stand to rebut his adoptive father’s statements. Many people following the case believe that the main reason Sandusky finally agreed that he would not take the stand was the risk that it would open the door to allow Matt’s testimony.
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