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Judge: Sandusky defense can call experts on personality disorder

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:04 PM EDT, Fri June 15, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Duke hoops coach Mike Krzyzewski says Penn State erred in firing Joe Paterno
  • NEW: A judge rules the defense can call experts to discuss histrionic personality disorder
  • The defense says Sandusky may suffer from the disorder, which explains some behavior
  • The former Penn State assistant football coach is accused of sexually abusing boys

Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Lawyers for Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach accused of systemic sexual abuse of boys, are expected to begin presenting their client's case next week, when the high-profile trial resumes.

When they do, they will be able to call experts to testify about whether Sandusky suffers from Histrionic Personality Disorder, thanks to a judge's ruling Friday.

Defense attorneys filed a motion Monday, the same day of opening statements and when the prosecution's first witnesses took the stand, seeking to bar testimony involving prosecutors' allegations that Sandusky exhibited "grooming behavior."

This included what the person referred to in court documents as Victim 4 described in his testimony as "creepy love letters." Excerpts from some such letters, written by Sandusky, were shown to jurors. In one, the former coach states, "I know that I have made my share of mistakes. ... My wish is that you care and have love in your heart. Love never ends."

In their motion, Sandusky's lawyers said they intend to offer expert testimony from a psychologist who "will explain that the words, tones, requests and statements made in the letters are consistent with a person who suffers from a Histrionic Personality Disorder,"

According to the National Institutes of Health, those with histrionic personality disorder "act in a very emotional and dramatic way that draws attention to themselves."

"The goal of a person suffering from this disorder in writing those letters would not necessarily be to groom or sexually consummate a relationship in a criminal manner, but rather to satisfy the needs of a psyche belabored by the needs of such a disorder," the defense lawyers write in their motion.

Judge John Cleland issued an order on Friday granting the defense motion, under one condition: that Sandusky "make himself available to (prosecutors) for the purpose of preparing rebuttal psychological/psychiatric testimony."

There was otherwise little action Friday in the case, one day after Cleland adjourned the trial after testimony wrapped for the day.

Starting next week, prosecutors are expected to take care of some routine evidentiary matters and then officially rest their case. After that happens, Sandusky's attorneys can mount their defense.

The longtime Nittany Lions defensive coordinator faces 52 counts tied to what prosecutors say was his abuse of at least 10 boys over a span of 15 years. The state says Sandusky met many of his alleged victims through Second Mile, a charity for underprivileged youths that he founded.

Now 68, Sandusky has been under house arrest in the days leading up to his trial. He has pleaded not guilty and has maintained his contact with children was not sexual.

How the Sandusky case unraveled

The uproar that followed his arrest last year spilled over to Penn State, where prosecutors say some of the boys were abused. The case raised questions about the school officials' response to allegations, with some claiming that Penn State put its reputation ahead of protecting possible child victims.

University President Graham Spanier and iconic head football coach Joe Paterno lost their jobs soon after Sandusky's arrest amid criticism they did not adequately handle an allegation involving Sandusky arose years earlier.

Mike McQueary, then a graduate football assistant, said he alerted Paterno in 2001 that he'd seen what appeared to be Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy, an allegation that authorities didn't learn of until years later.

Paterno apparently told the university's athletic director, Tim Curley, but no one notified police. Curley and Gary Schultz, Penn State's senior vice president for finance and business, are now facing felony charges of perjury and failing to report the allegations to authorities. Paterno, who was never charged, died of complications from lung cancer in January.

On Friday, legendary Duke University men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski told CNN's Piers Morgan that he thinks Paterno's firing "was a real mistake by Penn State's leadership."

"You had somebody who has given six decades of service to the university and done such an incredible job," Krzyzewski said about Paterno, whom he got to know "really well in the last year of his life." "Somehow, you have to ... respect the fact that you've gone through all these experiences for six decades. It doesn't just go out the window, right at the end."

McQueary was among those who took the stand this week, along with several who testified that Sandusky had sexually abused them as boys.

They included the prosecution's final witness Thursday, who refused to look at Sandusky when he pointed to him as asked minutes after telling jurors the ex-coach sodomized him and forced him to perform oral sex while he stayed in Sandusky's basement.

The sexual abuse occurred during a number of visits, the witness, now 18, testified.

"There was no fighting against it," he said.

Alleged Sandusky victim details abuse

He and Sandusky's other accusers -- some of whom came from broken homes -- testified that Sandusky lavished them with attention and gifts, including jerseys and tickets to Penn State football games. The person referred to as alleged Victim 10 testified the ex-coach threatened that he'd never see his family again if he talked about the alleged abuse, only to later apologize.

The now 28-year-old man identified as alleged Victim 4 told jurors he was "scared" and reluctant to tell anyone about what he described as systemic abuse that began when he was 14. He also said one time Sandusky warned him he'd have to end their trip to watch an out-of-state football bowl game if he resisted.

"I didn't want to lose the good things I had," the alleged Victim 4 said.

In opening statements, defense lawyer Joe Amendola suggested his client would take the stand. Sandusky would admit, he said, that he routinely "got showers with kids" after working out.

Sandusky has always maintained his innocence, Amendola said, claiming his client's accusers had changed their stories and were questioned until authorities received the answers they wanted.

"A lot of people lied," Amendola said. Some of the accusers have civil attorneys, he noted, calling that unusual. Others, he said, have a financial interest in the case -- an allegation that was denied by the accusers and their attorneys.

"One of the keys to this case, one of the keys to your perception ... is to wait until all the evidence is in," Amendola told jurors. "Some of it will be graphic ... it's going to be awful. But that doesn't make it true."

In Sandusky trial, a second act for McQueary?

The prosecution presented its opening statements first, during which childhood pictures of eight of the 10 accusers were shown on a projector screen. Prosecutor Joseph McGettigan described the extent of each accuser's contact with Sandusky.

"You'll hear about systematic behavior by a serial predator. These were experiences that took place not over days, not over weeks, not over months ... but over years," McGettigan said.

Feelings of humiliation, shame and fear led to "years of silence" on the part of accusers, the prosecutor said. He reminded jurors that Sandusky, not Second Mile or Penn State, was on trial. But, McGettigan said, Second Mile represented "the perfect environment for a serial predator."

In interviews after his arrest, Sandusky acknowledged showering and "horsing around" with boys, but denied being sexually attracted to them. McGettigan referred to those interviews during his opening statement, saying, "Deny what you can ... and make an excuse."

CNN's Laura Dolan, Dana Garrett and InSession's Michael Christian contributed to this report.

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