Sandusky jury picks have Penn St. ties
Posted: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 7:00 pm
By MARK SCOLFORO
and GENARO C. ARMAS
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Most of the men and women who may render a verdict in Jerry Sandusky’s child sexual abuse case have been chosen, and their ranks reflect the strong role Penn State plays in its surrounding community.
Nine of the 12 main members of the jury were selected Tuesday, and they include a rising senior at the college, a retired soil sciences professor with 37 years at the university, a man with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the school and a woman who’s been a football season ticket holder since the 1970s.
Others selected included a 24-year-old man with plans to attend an auto technician school, a mother of two who works in retail, a retired school bus driver, an engineer with no Penn State ties and a property management firm employee.
The main jury already includes five men and four women. The other three main jurors and four alternates could be chosen as early as today, with opening statements scheduled for Monday. The judge said the case could last several weeks.
Sandusky, 68, a former assistant football coach, is fighting 52 criminal charges for alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years. He has repeatedly denied the allegations. He faces potential penalties that could result in an effective life prison sentence.
More than 600 jury duty summonses were sent out to residents in Centre County, the home of Penn State University’s main campus.
In questioning 40 prospective jurors, about half said they or immediate family members worked at Penn State or were university retirees. One woman rented apartments to college students. Four knew Sandusky and two knew his wife.
Sandusky’s lawyer won the right to have jurors chosen from the local community, and prosecutors had concerns that Centre County might prove to be nearly synonymous with Penn State.
Sandusky had helped build the football team’s reputation as a defensive powerhouse known as “Linebacker U.”
His arrest toppled Joe Paterno from the head coaching position just months before his death from cancer, and some of the alleged attacks on children are said to have occurred inside university showers.
One of the very first jurors to be seated wasn’t just a season ticketholder since the 1970s: She said John McQueary — a possible trial witness and the father of a key witness — once worked with her husband.
When Sandusky’s lawyer sought to have her removed for cause, Judge John Cleland signaled he would need more grounds.
“We’re in Centre County. We’re in rural Pennsylvania,” Cleland said, noting that such connections “can’t be avoided.”
Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola opted not to use one of his eight challenges, and she joined the panel. Amendola did strike parents with children who are roughly junior high school age, similar to the ages for the alleged victims.
All the jurors will have to say under oath they can be impartial.
Prospective jurors learned that Paterno’s widow, Sue, and their son and former quarterbacks’ coach, Jay, were among the potential defense witnesses, about which a family spokesman declined comment. Members of Sandusky’s family also were on a list read to prospective jurors, along with assistant coach Mike McQueary and his father.
Mike McQueary, on leave from the team, has said he saw Sandusky naked in a team shower with a young boy more than a decade ago and reported it to Paterno. Mike McQueary is also on the prosecution’s list, along with young men who have accused Sandusky of abusing them.
Among those who were struck from the jury pool were a nurse who said people make up stories all the time — prosecutors used a challenge for her — as well as a man who had volunteered for the charity Sandusky founded, The Second Mile.
Also struck were a mother of 10 who said she has made up her mind, a Penn State fan and township manager who said news coverage of the case has been destructive to her community, a woman who taught Sandusky’s son in third grade before the Sanduskys adopted him, and a ’94 alumnus who knows the Sanduskys.
By the end of Tuesday’s jury selection, both the defense and the prosecution had used five of their allotted eight strikes.
Cleland told the more than 220 potential jurors he would not sequester them, meaning they can spend nights at home during the trial that is expected to last several weeks.
While about a dozen TV news trucks and more than 50 reporters waited outside the courthouse for updates, Cleland urged the jury pool to avoid news accounts or social media postings.
“No one in the world will know as much about this trial as the people sitting in the jury box,” Cleland told them.
Sandusky attended jury selection, and laughed at some of Cleland’s humorous remarks to potential jurors. But when Cleland told the pool the nature of the charge, Sandusky put his head down.
Prosecutors have claimed that Sandusky groomed boys he met through The Second Mile, the charity he founded for at-risk youth in 1977, then attacked them, in some cases in his own home or inside university athletic facilities.
Published in The Messenger 6.6.12