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Jerry Sandusky, Former Penn State Football Coach, Takes Stand To Deny Sex Abuse

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Jerry Sandusky was back in court yesterday. He's the former Penn State assistant football coach who was convicted of sexually abusing minors. He's seeking an appeal. And for the only time in this four-year story, he testified in his own defense. WPSU's Eleanor Klibanoff was in the courtroom.

ELEANOR KLIBANOFF, BYLINE: Jerry Sandusky entered the courtroom grinning. He waved to a few supporters and, after a bailiff removed his ankle cuffs, took the stand for the first time to lay out his appeal. In fact, that was the first point of his appeal. He intended to testify in the original trial, but his lawyer prevented him from doing so. Sandusky's current lawyer, Al Lindsay, says that's the first sign that he wasn't adequately represented.

AL LINDSAY: We're very happy to get him on the stand today to say that he was innocent of these charges because he's never been able to say that, the way that this thing has been set up. It just didn't happen. It's very important for him to say, I did not do these things.

KLIBANOFF: Sandusky, who is serving a 30 to 60-year sentence, has been granted this hearing under Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act. He's already had two appeals denied, but this is a specific form of recourse if you believe your representation was inadequate during your trial. Sandusky's testimony yesterday painted his former lawyer, Joseph Amendola, as incompetent and overworked. Sandusky says his lawyer waived his right to a preliminary hearing without consulting him and didn't have the time to do a full investigation into the state's witnesses.

But when Amendola took the stand, he described his legal strategy that he said had buy-in from Sandusky, though, admittedly, not enough time to pursue every angle they wanted. This is the essential question before the judge - was Sandusky a legal novice, as he says, not savvy enough to ignore bad advice? Or was he party to his defense, which just wasn't strong enough to overcome evidence against him? Yesterday was the first of three hearings on that question. They will resume next week. For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Klibanoff in State College, Pa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.