New for Philly Weekly:
Along with today’s news that Judge John Cleland refused to throw out child-sex-abuse charges against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky comes confirmation of a policy failure that will have huge consequences for the outcome of the trial: Despite the bright spotlight cast on Pennsylvania’s sex-abuse laws since the Sandusky case broke in November 2011, the state Senate failed to take action to correct a legal loophole that has allowed countless sex offenders to go free in time for the Sandusky trial, scheduled to begin June 5.
This is the problem: Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that doesn’t allow experts to testify regarding victim and assailant behavior in sexual-assault trials. All 49 states, D.C., federal court and even the military allow expert testimony. What this means is that defense attorneys are allowed to chisel credibility away from alleged victims by questioning their behavior during and after the alleged assaults in a Pennsylvania courtroom without anyone to put victims’ behavior into context for a jury.