EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Out Like a Lion: Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Refuses to Hear Jerry Sandusky's Appeal

Today, in a per curiam order, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied Jerry Sandusky's Petition for Allowance of Appeal. In other words, the Pennsylvania Supremes will not hear Sandusky's appeal from his convictions for child molestation. Looking at some of the arguments made by Sandusky, it is easy to see why the Court reached this conclusion. One of Sandusky's main arguments was that the trial court erred by issuing the following jury instruction:

Now, the defense has offered evidence tending to prove that the defendant is of good character. I'm speaking of the defense witnesses who testified that the defendant has a good reputation in the community for being law abiding, peaceable, nonviolent individual.  

The law recognizes that a person of good character is not likely to commit a crime which is contrary to that person's nature. Evidence of good character may by itself raise a reasonable doubt of guilt and require a verdict of not guilty.  

So you must weigh and consider the evidence of good character along with the other evidence in this case and if on the evidence you have a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt, you may find him not guilty....But in making that determination, you may consider evidence of good character which you believe to be true.

According to Sandusky, this instruction was erroneous because

if the character evidence must be weighed against other evidence "it is not being considered 'in and of itself'"

There was just one problem for the former Penn State Assistant Coach: "This very argument was rejected in Commonwealth v. Khamphouseane, 434 Pa.Super. 93, 642 A.2d 490 (1994)."



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