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Why Jerry Sandusky Waived his Preliminary Hearing

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on December 13, 2011 12:44 PM

Victims set to testify against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky were treated to quite the surprise Tuesday morning. Before testimony could begin, defense attorney Joe Amendola announced that Sandusky had chosen to waive his preliminary hearing.

There are a lot of questions about what this means for the Sandusky case, which involves more than 50 counts of sexual abuse.

But before you can understand the answers, you'll need to understand why someone would waive a preliminary hearing.

There are two essential legal terms to this explanation: arraignment and preliminary hearing. An arraignment is when a defendant appears before the court and is read the official charges. He is expected to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

A preliminary hearing guarantees the validity of those charges. Prosecutors present evidence and must prove that there is sufficient probable cause to go to trial. They may present physical evidence, affidavits and witness testimony.

Which is why Sandusky's victims were set to testify. Their stories would prove to the judge that there is enough evidence to charge the coach with abuse.

And again, this testimony is probably why Sandusky chose to waive his preliminary hearing.

Defendants only do this when it's in their best interest. Here, Sandusky's accusers were set to tell their stories in gruesome detail. This would be the first time the public has heard directly from the source.

His defense attorney probably decided it would be best to keep as much of this information as possible out of the press. The more people know, the more they speculate. This could potentially taint the jury pool should the case ever reach trial.

None of this means that Jerry Sandusky has admitted guilt. When a defendant waives a preliminary hearing he is merely admitting that probable cause exists. A jury will now have to decide whether there is enough evidence to convict.

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