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#399939 - 06/10/12 01:06 AM Sandusky Trial: Witness Presentation Explained
Chris Anderson Offline
Board of Directors

Registered: 04/22/12
Posts: 289
Loc: New York
During the Sandusky trial, MaleSurvivor Communications Committee Chair Thomas Hodson (who is himself a former attorney, trial judge, and is now a journalist) will be sharing with us some helpful explanations of the stages of a criminal trial. Our hope is that sharing this information here will help people better understand what is going on behind the scenes, and eliminate some of the confusion and uncertainty that will inevitably come up. Please follow our Twitter (@malesurvivorORG) and Facebook pages for more information and reactions as well.

Presentation of Witnesses:

In a criminal trial, the state has the burden of proof – to attempt to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the state goes first and last in most trial procedures.

That means, after opening statements, the state will start with the presentation of its witnesses through live testimony from the witness stand. This is expected to start in the Sandusky trial on Monday, June 11. Each witness will be sworn-in and testify under an oath to tell the truth.

Each witness will go through the following forms of testimony. The party who calls the witness to the stand will conduct “direct examination” of the witness. The attorney will ask open-ended questions which will allow the witness to tell what he or she knows about a particular situation. The purpose of direct examination is to lay out the thread of the case in understandable terms from first-hand experience or investigation.

Tangible exhibits are also introduced into evidence through direct examination – things such as reports and other documents that tend to support the oral testimony that is given. Evidence, to be considered by a jury, includes both oral testimony and exhibits that are admitted into evidence in the case.

After the party who has called the witness is finished with the direct examination, the opposing attorney will conduct “cross-examination.” The purpose of cross examination is generally to attack the credibility of the witness – to attempt to raise doubt about aspects of the testimony.

The attorney who is conducting cross-examination is permitted to ask “leading questions” which means that often the answer the attorney wants is posed in the form of a question. Often leading questions permit only “yes” or “no” answers and allow the attorney to “lead” the witness in a certain direction.

Once cross-examination is complete, the attorney who originally called the witness will be allowed to question the witness one more time. That is called “re-direct examination.” The purpose of “re-direct” is to attempt to rehabilitate the witness from any credibility damage that was done during cross-examination.

This process is followed with each and every witness no matter if called by the prosecution or the defense. During cross-examination of the state’s witnesses the defense will attempt to discredit them. Later, during cross-examination of the defense’s witnesses, the state will attempt to attack their credibility.

The state will present all of its witnesses first and then the defense will have the opportunity to present its witnesses. The defense, however, is not required by law to present any testimony at all.
Please note, as of September 2016 I am no longer Executive Director. However due to a bug in UBB software that is still unresolved this label can't be removed.

#400224 - 06/12/12 03:38 PM Re: Sandusky Trial: Witness Presentation Explained [Re: Chris Anderson]
unhappycamper Offline

Registered: 10/21/11
Posts: 756
Loc: VA
Q: Does offering this "Histrionic Personality Syndrome" defense require Sandusky to take the stand?

No further questions, Your Honor! ;^}


#400340 - 06/13/12 04:32 PM Re: Sandusky Trial: Witness Presentation Explained [Re: Chris Anderson]
tshodson Offline

Registered: 06/13/12
Posts: 131
It is not a requirement. He will most likely attempt to prove that defense through expert testimony.

#400342 - 06/13/12 05:25 PM Re: Sandusky Trial: Witness Presentation Explained [Re: Chris Anderson]
Anomalous Offline

Registered: 03/07/10
Posts: 2242
Hi Guys,

"Histrionic Personality Disorder" does NOT cause a person to do the things of which Sandusky is accused.

What a person with Histrionic Personality Disorder does do, is exaggerate the emotional responses to events in life and everyday interactions.

People with this personality disorder turn situations into being about them -- no one can speak of their experiences without the person with Histrionic Personality Disorder "one upping them," so they become the center of attention, the person who has worse experiences than any other and the person to whom everyone should be paying attention. In short, they are attention seeking.

They dramatize life. They have a need to constant reassurance and approval. The emotions the individual displays are viewed by others as superficial. The person with Histrionic Personality Disorder frequently romanticizes relationships which are not romantic.

You can find more information about Histrionic Personality Disorder here.

Personality disorders don't "cause" behavior, especially not sexual abuse. Personality disorders affect how a person filters information and interactions and affects their emotional response to those events.

The only thing Histrionic is Sandusky's attorneys thinking this "disorder" is a defense against what Sandusky did.

For the defense to want to use this diagnosis as an "explanation" for Sandusky's behavior tells me they are desperate - very desperate.

Acceptance on someone else's terms is worse than rejection.

#400344 - 06/13/12 06:02 PM Re: Sandusky Trial: Witness Presentation Explained [Re: Chris Anderson]
tshodson Offline

Registered: 06/13/12
Posts: 131
I don't think that Sandusky's attorneys are using this as a defense against the "behavior" -- meaning the alleged abuse. Instead, I think it is being offered to mitigate against the devastation of the letters that Sandusky wrote to the young men....

#400351 - 06/13/12 07:54 PM Re: Sandusky Trial: Witness Presentation Explained [Re: Chris Anderson]
Anomalous Offline

Registered: 03/07/10
Posts: 2242
Hi Guys,

There was a pre-trial motion in which Sandusky's attorneys wanted to bring in the Histrionic Personality Disorder as well as the diagnosis of Depression. I missed part of that pre-trial coverage, so I do not know if they wanted to put that forth as an "affirmative defense" or if they only wanted it so they could "explain" the letters and some of Sandusky's behavior (the threats made against those who rebuffed him).

The prosecution fought to have it kept out during the "guilt phase" of the trial. I also believe the defense is barred from brining it forth through the testimony of any therapists that might take the stand for the defense.

It might be brought it during the penalty phase if there is a guilty verdict. The judge, at least during the pre-trial hearing on Monday, had deferred making a decision on that point.

The best analogy for Sandusky's defense is throwing spaghetti at the wall. Throw enough of it, and some of it will stick.

Given the client, and his long history of abusive behaviors, there isn't much the defense can do except try to attack the credibility, and the motivations of the victims, and to look for mitigation.

As Mr. Amendola stated when questioned why he let Sandusky say he took showers with the kids during the interview with Bob Costas, he reply was to the effect "he took them." With a client who can't keep his mouth shut and who has left a very long documented trail of his abuses, I don't know that there is much of a defense that can be put forth.

"I didn't do it" is out of the question.

As I was listening to some of the guests on In Session today, they aptly pointed out that Sandusky, like so many other serial sexual abusers, replies to questions in a manner that "splits hairs." He questions the question and never really answers it. His denials are based on the entirety of the question, in which there may be one abusive act he did not do with a particular victim, rather than being able to honestly deny that he did any of them.

If Mr. Amendola believed, and could support, that any of the diagnoses given to Sandusky truly mitigated his responisiblity, he would be putting forth a diminished capacity defense.

But Mr. Amendola cannot, because no therapist worth their degree would get on the stand and support such clop-trop. I would like to think that Mr. Amendola also did not consider such a defense becuase he knows that it is not true that histrionic personality disorder or depression accurately account for the behaviors of his client.

I am guessing that Mr. Amendola is already planning for the guilt phase and the appeals process.

He has successfully loaded the jury with people who have direct connections to Penn State and / or Sandusky. I am hoping common sense will prevail and the jurors will not be blinded by a sense of loyalty to the wrong thing.

I sincerely hope the jurors are as outraged by Sandusky's behavior as all of us are, and that they send him a very clear message about what he has done.

Acceptance on someone else's terms is worse than rejection.


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