With the world watching four years ago, Jerry Sandusky kept silent, opting not to testify in his defense before a jury that labeled him a serial sexual predator.

He is to return to the same Centre County, Pa., courtroom Friday in a bid to overturn that conviction. But this time, the former coach has vowed to take the witness stand - and force his victims, prosecutors, and defense lawyers to do the same.

Sandusky's lawyer says their testimony will expose the case as a "modern-day Salem witch trial" that he says led to the conviction of an innocent man.

The arguments aren't novel, and the odds of success are long. But the hearing could be remarkable for its behind-the-scenes glimpses into one of the most thoroughly chronicled sexual-abuse cases.

"If a textbook were to be written on how not to try a sex-offense case involving overwhelming media attention, this case would provide the model," Sandusky's appellate attorney, Al Lindsay, wrote in court filings this year.

More than four years after the verdict, Sandusky's case, and all it spawned, refuses to fade from the spotlight.

Pennsylvania State University is still battling its insurer over $93 million in victim settlements. The family of famed football coach Joe Paterno - as well as legions of his fans - continues its legal fights with the NCAA, investigator Louis Freeh, and the university over Paterno's tarnished reputation. And three former high-ranking university administrators, including president Graham B. Spanier, are still waiting to be tried over child-endangerment charges.

Friday's proceeding is the first over three days that Senior Judge John M. Cleland, who presided over the original trial, set aside this month to hear evidence and arguments on Sandusky's latest appeal.

The longtime Penn State assistant football coach, 72, is serving a 30-to-60-year sentence in a prison in Greene County. His previous appeals have twice been rejected by the state Superior and Supreme Courts. Prosecutors have repeatedly described his latest argument as meritless and projected confidence in their ability to fend it off.

The bid for a new trial falls under Pennsylvania's Post-Conviction Relief Act, which limits arguments to newly discovered evidence, constitutional violations, and deficient representation by defense lawyers.

Lindsay has focused on the last item, taking aim at Sandusky's trial lawyer, Joseph Amendola.

In his filings, Lindsay sketches a portrait of Amendola as an over-his-head lawyer who buckled under his responsibility to serve and defend his client.

He contends that the State College lawyer pushed Sandusky, with 15 minutes' notice, into a disastrous, nationally broadcast TV interview after his arrest that became evidence against him.

During the trial, Amendola raised eyebrows with hours-long news conferences on the courthouse steps and his unorthodox opening gambit to jurors - when he described the evidence against Sandusky as "overwhelming." Some court-watchers questioned even then whether Amendola was purposefully setting Sandusky up to launch an appeal on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Lindsay has suggested that Amendola's first-day blunder was only one of the errors Sandusky will describe if allowed to take the stand Friday.

Others include Amendola's last-minute advice to his client not to testify in his own defense - after the lawyer promised the jury during his opening statements that Sandusky would take the stand.

Of the November 2011 interview with NBC's Bob Costas - in which Sandusky struggled in a haggard monotone to answer the question, "Are you sexually attracted to young boys?" - the former coach says Amendola pressured him into it and did nothing to prepare him.

In an attempt to buttress his claims, Lindsay cites Amendola's trial cocounsel, Carlisle lawyer Karl Rominger, who has since been disbarred, admitted to a gambling addiction, and faces prison after pleading guilty to bilking clients.

In an affidavit filed with Cleland's court in March, Rominger described a harried run-up to Sandusky's trial in which he and Amendola had little time to review a mountain of witness statements and discovery material. That lack of preparation, Rominger maintained, led to several slipshod decisions by Amendola.

"It became clear to me that there was no overall strategy developed, discussed or explained," he said in his affidavit. "By the end of the testimony by the third witness, our defense was largely crippled."

For instance, Rominger said, he got barely an hour's notice from Amendola that he was expected to cross-examine the prosecution's star witness, Mike McQueary.

The onetime assistant coach's testimony that he walked in on Sandusky as he sexually assaulted a young boy in a locker-room shower in 2001 became a central plank of the government's case.

It now factors into another behind-the-curtain drama revealed in Lindsay's filings, and one that could become clearer in the hearings this month.

Throughout Sandusky's trial, the Attorney General's Office repeatedly stressed that investigators never found the boy McQueary saw, referenced in court filings only as "Victim 2." Prosecutor Joseph McGettigan told jurors during his closing arguments that the boy's name was "known only to God."

Lindsay contends that that was a lie, and that Victim 2's identity was well-known to Amendola and prosecutors as a then-24-year-old man who had come forward two months before trial.

Investigators with Sandusky's defense and the prosecution team had interviewed the man multiple times before the trial. But when details of his account changed and even became contradictory, and his lawyer became less cooperative, both sides opted not to call the man at trial.

The man has since been paid a settlement by Penn State based on his Sandusky claims. Sources close to Sandusky's prosecution maintain that while he may have been abused by the former coach at some point, that they don't believe he was Victim 2.

Lindsay said in court filings this year that the man, whose name is being withheld by the Inquirer because of his allegations, has recanted his abuse claims.

Both the man and his lawyer, Andrew Shubin, are listed as potential witnesses at the appeal hearings. So too, are Amendola and the key prosecutors, McGettigan and Frank Fina.

It's not clear if or when they will be called to the stand, or the depth of the questioning the judge will allow.

In his order approving the hearing, Cleland said one focus of the hearing would not be to decide whether the man is Victim 2, but "what Mr. McGettigan believed to be true when he made the statement to the jury."

jroebuck@phillynews.com

215-854-2608 @jeremyrroebuck