Jury selection resumes in Jerry Sandusky case

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — The process of picking the last seven jurors for the child sex abuse trial of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky stretched into its second day Wednesday, with the judge determined to start opening statements next week.

Sandusky faces a total of 52 counts involving 10 alleged victims over a 15-year span. He has denied the allegations, and defense lawyer Joseph Amendola‘s potential witness list has seven Sandusky family members on it, including his wife, Dottie and two sons.

Twelve of the 40 jurors questioned Wednesday morning were excused, including one who knew Sandusky personally. Some were let go because of financial hardship; others because of previous vacation plans.

The remaining 28 moved on to a more detailed phase of the selection process in which lawyers for each side could individually grill jurors to determine if they could be impartial heading into a trial that has garnered worldwide attention.

Nine of the 12 jurors and four alternates needed for the trial were picked Tuesday, the first day of selection. Prosecutors have used four of their eight no-explanation-needed challenges and Sandusky’s attorneys five.

The lawyers who will argue the case said they’re happy with the process so far.

Amendola arrived with Sandusky just after 8:15 a.m. and told reporters he’s confident the nine jurors picked on Tuesday will give “us a fair shake.” Sandusky himself didn’t say anything as he entered the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, about 12 miles from the university where he once worked.

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

The ranks of the five men and four women already selected reflect the strong role Penn State plays in its surrounding community.

They include a rising senior at the university, 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 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 breadth of Penn State ties to the community was evident again in the second day of jury selection. Of the 40 questioned Wednesday, 10 indicated they worked at Penn State. Nineteen indicated either they or a close family member had volunteered or financially contributed to the university.

Fifteen said they knew someone on the prosecution’s witness list, while 20 knew someone on Sandusky’s defense list.

Sandusky was quiet in court, leafing through a binder with plastic-covered pages during most of a 45-minute hearing early Wednesday — pausing at times when Judge John Cleland commented from the bench.

More than 600 jury duty summonses were sent out to residents in Centre County, the home of Penn State University’s main campus.

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 first jurors to be seated Tuesday 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, 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.”

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.

Of the 40 jurors initially questioned Wednesday, 32 had children. Eighteen indicated they had jobs or other responsibilities in which they were legally required to report instances of alleged child abuse.

All the jurors will have to say under oath they can be impartial.

Besides Sandusky family members, other names on the defense’s potential witness list include the widow and son of Joe Paterno, the late Hall of Fame football coach who was dismissed by university trustees in the aftermath of Sandusky’s arrest.

Assistant coach Mike McQueary and his father are also on the defense witness list.

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.

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