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.

Sandusky Trial State Can Present Rebuttal Evidence

Because the state has the burden of proof in a criminal case, the prosecution has the opportunity to present evidence first and last in a case.

After the defense is concluded, the state will have an opportunity to present testimony to rehabilitate its case, to plug potential holes made by the defense, and to explain any possible discrepancies among the testimony of witnesses.

Rebuttal is not always necessary and the state will make certain strategic decisions on what defense testimony is worth contradicting.

For example, the state may well call its own psychologist or psychiatrist to rebut the defense testimony about histrionic disorder. The court already ordered Jerry Sandusky to be examined by a state expert. That expert may question the disorder itself, question whether Sandusky suffers from it,
and/or question the impact, if any, it might have on his behavior at the core of this case.

The state may also call back the officers who could possibly testify about whether they shared information among victims since there appears to be conflicting testimony on that point. However, the state may feel that any discrepancy on this point is not worth highlighting by presenting rebuttal
testimony. Instead of presenting more testimony, the state may just address, during closing argument, that discrepancy as being insignificant.

It also has come to light that NBC did not air the entire Bob Costas interview. It has been discovered that there are edited portions in existence that some people may find are damaging to Sandusky’s case. The state may try to play those portions during rebuttal.

If prosecutors attempt to do so, the defense might challenge that as not being appropriate rebuttal since the state had the opportunity to play the whole unedited version during its case-in-chief.vThe state would need to convince the judge that this was newly discovered evidence during the course of the trial and therefore, it did not have the opportunity to play it during the main portion of the case.

This legal argument would take place outside the presence of the jury and the judge would need to decide what is allowable. These judicial rulings, if they go against the defense, may be grounds for appeal – to be raised by the defense at a later time if there are convictions.

In short, the state will assess what damage, if any, it thinks has been done by the defense and then have an opportunity to repair it.

The rule of thumb in trial work is that jurors remember what they hear first and last in a trial – so sometimes the state will present a short rebuttal just to get in the last word. The state, however, does not want to look desperate or give the jury an impression that the defense did any damage. So, rebuttal evidence is usually brief – if any at all.