Jury selection complete for Jerry Sandusky trial

BELLEFONTE, Pa. – Half of the jury that will decide the fate of Jerry Sandusky has ties to Penn State, the iconic university shaken to its foundations by the sexual molestation charges against the retired football coach.
A total of 12 jurors and four alternates were chosen over two days in an unexpectedly quick process that allowed for a Monday kickoff of one of the most anticipated trials in Pennsylvania history. Opening statements are scheduled Monday and testimony is expected to continue for several weeks.
The five jurors and two alternates seated Wednesday include a fifty-something grandmother who works as a Penn State engineering department administrative assistant, a thirty-something dance teacher in the university’s continuing education program and a tenured professor who served on a faculty committee with fired university President Graham Spanier.
Jurors selected earlier include a Penn State senior, 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.
Among the alternates, two informed prosecutors and Sandusky’s defense attorneys of their links to the university, which has its main campus in rural Centre County, about 200 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
A young woman selected early Wednesday afternoon is a 2007 graduate of Penn State’s human development program. An older man said he had been a big Penn State football fan since he attended the university in the 1970s.
Although Judge John M. Cleland, Sandusky’s defense attorneys and lead prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan III grilled the prospective jurors on their feelings about Penn State and whether allegiances or animosity would affect their ability to judge Sandusky fairly, the school ties did not appear to be their main concerns.
McGettigan, a senior deputy in the state attorney general’s office, asked the judge to excuse two women who told the judge they had experienced instances or accusations of sexual misconduct in their own families.
The forty-something woman, also a university employee, said that Amendola had represented her brother in a child abuse case unrelated to Sandusky’s and that the charges had been dropped when the accuser recanted. But another brother was serving time in state prison for similar charges.
Amendola contested the prosecutor’s request to excuse the woman, noting that she said she would not let the experiences color her view of the case, but Cleland let her go.
Another woman, who has a graduate degree from Penn State, said an adult stepson had been abused as a child. She also admitted to knowing Jack Raykovitz, the former president of the charity for disadvantaged children Sandusky founded in 1977 and where prosecutors say he met most of his victims.
That woman was also dismissed.
But Amendola paid close attention to whether prospective jurors have children or grandchildren, especially those in the age range of Sandusky’s accusers, who are now young adults.
“Would the fact that you have a small boy interfere with your ability to hear the evidence in this case and base your decision on the evidence that you hear?” Amendola asked Juror No. 11, who has a 6-year-old son.
The woman replied that she believes she could be fair, and added that her experiences with her son taught her that truth is a difficult concept for children.
“I know with my son, there are a lot of sides to a story,” she said.
“So I guess what you’re saying is that you recognize kids don’t always tell the truth?” Amendola asked.
“Absolutely,” the juror replied.
One woman who admitted debating the case with friends and who appeared uncertain she could set aside her opinions about Sandusky’s guilt or innocence was dismissed with little discussion.
Sandusky, dressed in khaki slacks and a brown sport coat, appeared to be engaged in the process, leaning forward in his chair and reacting to the jurors’ answers.
At one point when the judge and lawyers left the room, Sandusky joked with reporters.
“What did you guys do to deserve me?” he asked. “How did you guys get stuck with this?”
And at the start of the intensive questioning Wednesday, Amendola again asked for a delay in trial to restart the jury selection with a fresh group of prospects. He argued that ABC News reports Tuesday about “intimate love letters” Sandusky allegedly sent to an accuser would taint the jury pool.
The judge said starting over would be unnecessary, but did quiz jurors about what news they had heard or read since they were dismissed Tuesday. None reported hearing about the letters.
Sandusky, who retired in 1999 after a decades long career as the Penn State football team’s defensive coordinator, faces 52 counts of child sexual abuse. Prosecutors allege Sandusky sexually abused 10 young boys, forcing some to have oral and anal sex in his home near State College, on the Penn State campus and on football road trips to bowl games in Texas and Florida. He was arrested in November and has been confined to his home under $250,000 bail since December.
Among the key witnesses is former graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary, who allegedly saw Sandusky raping a boy in a shower in a Penn State locker room in 2001 and told his father about it. Sue Paterno, the widow of legendary football coach Joe Paterno, and her son Jay are also on a list of potential witnesses.
According to ABC News, intimate love letters allegedly in Sandusky’s handwriting will be read into testimony. The letters are reported to be between Sandusky and one of his accusers who had met Sandusky through Second Mile. The victim is expected to show gifts, including golf clubs, Sandusky gave him during their alleged relationship, according to ABC News.
The case has touched nearly every corner of Centre County because of Penn State’s impact in the community. The university employs more than 23,100 and pumps millions into the local economy each fall football season.
The sexual abuse charges shook the school, prompted the firing of Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier, and put an unprecedented focus on sexual abuse of children.
Paterno, the winningest coach in major U.S. college football history, died of lung cancer in January, just over two months after his firing.
• What happened Wednesday: After just two days, the jury of seven women and five men and four alternates, three women, one man, were selected. Half of the 12-member jury has ties to Penn State.
• Notable: The jurors seated Wednesday include a fifty-something grandmother who works as a Penn State engineering department administrative assistant, a thirty-something dance teacher in the university’s continuing education program and a tenured professor who served on a faculty committee with fired university President Graham Spanier.
• What’s next: Opening statements are scheduled Monday. Testimony is expected to continue for several weeks.

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