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Jerry Sandusky trial: 4 of 9 jurors so far have ties to Penn State

June 06, 2012|By Michael Muskal

Jury selection in the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse case headed into its second day Wednesday with the defense so far getting a jury with the strong local roots that it had sought.

At least four of the nine jurors already selected have some relationship to Penn State University, where Sandusky was a well-known assistant football coach. The panel includes a student at the school, a retired professor and an alumnus. One of the four women chosen has been a Penn State football season ticket holder for decades, according to media pool reports of the jury selection process.

The ties among the jurors and other possible participants in the highly publicized trial run deep into the Bellfonte, Pa., area. One juror, for example, explained how her husband had once worked with John McQueary, the father of key witness Mike McQueary and a possible witness himself.

When the defense sought to have her removed for cause, Judge John Cleland balked and asked for more grounds. "We're in Centre County. We're in rural Pennsylvania," Cleland said, noting that such connections "can't be avoided."

PHOTOS: The Sandusky case: Who's who

The pattern became increasingly apparent during questioning of prospective jurors on Wednesday morning. At least one person indicated they personally know Sandusky, while 15 said they know someone on the prosecution list of witnesses and 20 said they know someone on the defense's list. At least 10 said they were employed at Penn State, and 19 said they contributed either time or money to the school. Eight people said they had volunteered at the charity Sandusky founded.

It was precisely those kinds of community connections that the defense was hoping for when it fought to keep the trial local despite a prosecution request to move it. The courthouse is about 10 miles from the university where some of the incidents of abuse are alleged to have occurred. Sandusky, a well-known sports figure who was active in the community, also lives nearby. Defense attorneys have also indicated that their list of possible witnesses names seven of Sandusky's relatives, including his wife, Dottie, and two sons.

Twelve of the 40 possible jurors questioned Wednesday morning were excused, mostly because they said serving on a multi-week trial would be a financial hardship, according to reports from the courthouse. The selection process is being monitored by a pool of journalists in the courtroom.

Sandusky, 68, is charged with 52 counts of abusing 10 boys over 15 years. He is accused of abusing boys from the Second Mile, the charity he founded for at-risk children. Prosecutors say some of the incidents took place at Penn State, where he would bring the boys on field trips.

It was during one such trip that Mike McQueary, a former assistant football coach, said he saw Sandusky showering with a naked 10-year-old boy at the university. McQueary, then a graduate assistant, said he told his boss, head football coach Joe Paterno, who took the report to the university president, Graham Spanier. Both Paterno and Spanier were fired last year by the board of trustees for not acting forcefully enough in dealing with the report. Paterno has died of cancer.

As of Wednesday morning, seven jurors, including four alternates, remain to be chosen. Cleland told prospective jurors that the case was on schedule to complete jury selection this week.

"The trial in this case will start on Monday morning," Cleland said. "We anticipate that it will take at most three weeks and be done by the last day of June."

Earlier, defense lawyer Joe Amendola arrived at the courthouse with Sandusky and said he's confident the nine jurors already chosen will give "us a fair shake."

Lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan, Pennsylvania's senior deputy attorney general, said that jury selection was "so far, so good."

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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