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Jerry Sandusky: Jury selection begins in child sex-abuse trial

June 05, 2012|By Michael Muskal

More than a half-year after his arrest on charges of sexually abusing boys and after weeks of attempted legal delays, the trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky began with jury selection on Tuesday.

More than 600 jury summonses have been sent out to residents of Centre County, Penn., the home of the university and Sandusky’s neighbors. The defense had fought hard in the pretrial legal wrangling to keep a local venue for the proceedings in the hope that jurors would be more sympathetic.

Judge John Cleland is presiding over the trial and spoke to some 220 prospective jurors Tuesday morning inside the packed courtroom. Lawyers, court personnel and a media pool of two journalists were also present.

Jurors will be questioned in groups of 40, then will face the usual one-on-one voir dire, or inquiries. In all, 12 jurors and four alternates will be chosen this week, with opening arguments and subsequent testimony scheduled to begin June 11.

Sandusky, 68, faces 52 criminal counts alleging that he sexually abused 10 boys during a period of 15 years. The boys were clients of the charity, the Second Mile, that Sandusky founded for at-risk youth. Some of the incidents are said to have taken place at Penn State, where the former coach would bring the boys on field trips.

Video shot Tuesday morning showed Sandusky arriving at the courthouse, some 10 miles from Penn State, in a black SUV, accompanied by his lawyer, Joseph Amendola. Neither man answered reporters’ questions. More than 200 journalists have been accredited to cover the trial, and the scene outside was the familiar crowding of television trucks that accompanies a highly publicized judicial event.

Jurors are certain to be asked about their opinion of Penn State, which has become inextricably linked to the scandal.

In addition to the alleged victims, a key witness is expected to be Mike McQueary, a former football coach at Penn State. While a graduate student, McQueary allegedly saw Sandusky with a naked 10-year-old boy in a shower at the university and reported it to iconic head football coach Joe Paterno, who then went to university President Graham Spanier.

Paterno and Spanier were dismissed by the university board of trustees for not taking forceful action to deal with the reported abuse. Paterno died this year of lung cancer.

Two other university officials are charged with failing to report the suspected abuse and with perjury related to their testimony before a grand jury investigating the scandal. Those officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley, who is on leave, and retired Vice President Gary Schultz, have said they will invoke their constitutional guarantees to avoid self-incrimination if asked to testify in the Sandusky case.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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