Symposium Looks at Legal, Ethical, and Social Issues Related to High Profile Criminal Cases
Web Editor - Published: October 23, 2012
“Jerry Sandusky, in my opinion, was convicted on November 5th of 2011. The media convicted him. The public convicted him. Penn State convicted him,” said attorney Joseph Amendola as he spoke about his client to a sizable audience in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom on Widener Law’s Delaware campus.

Amendola’s remarks came at the close of the High Profile, High Impact Criminal Cases symposium held on Friday, October 19th. The program, presented by Widener’s Taishoff Advocacy, Technology and Public Service Institute, examined four recent high profile criminal cases and explored the legal, ethical, and societal issues reflected in them.

In addition to Amendola, featured speakers for the event included; Jeffrey Lindy, who was part of the defense team for Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia; Philadelphia assistant district attorney Joshu Harris, who is part of an American Bar Association task force on “Stand Your Ground” laws; and New Jersey Public Defender Office appellate attorney Joshua Sanders, who helped defend Larry Henderson in New Jersey, which led the New Jersey Supreme Court to reconsider how eyewitness-based prosecutions will be handled in order to reduce the risk of mistaken identification.

“As the lawyer, don’t think that you’re high profile, high impact,” Lindy told the lawyers in the audience as he spoke first, recounting his experiences in defending Monsignor Lynn, who was sentenced in July to three to six years in jail for covering up sex abuse by priests.

“My fundamental belief is that when you’re doing a high impact, high profile case – don’t act like it,” he continued, stressing that to a lawyer, every client and every case should be high impact.

After Professor Jules Epstein, who coordinated the program, provided a bit of background on the Trayvon Martin shooting and “Stand Your Ground” laws, he introduced Joshu Harris, who spoke about the history of such laws. Harris then offered a consideration of recent studies that suggest that while “Stand Your Ground” laws have resulted in an increase in “justifiable homicides” in the states where they have been implemented, there does not appear to have been a deterrent effect on other crimes.

The segment on witness identification began with a brief look at how unreliable witness identifications can be, and then Sanders spoke about the Henderson case and how that became part of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision to alter how eyewitness-based prosecutions would be handled in the future.

Noting the importance of understanding the science involved, Sanders observed, “You have to read all of those studies. You have to talk to all of your experts.”
The program concluded with the presentation by Amendola, who gave some background on how he became involved in the Sandusky case, why he decided to continue defending Sandusky after it became clear that the scope of the charges was greater than he initially believed, the role of the media in the case, and his thoughts on how quickly the case moved from discovery to trial.

“I know that we’re up against a big challenge at the appellate level,” said Amendola, who has appealed Sandusky’s sentence on the basis that he was not given proper time to create an adequate defense. “Who wants to be the Judge who gives Jerry Sandusky a new trial?” he asked rhetorically toward the end of his remarks.