BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — A jury was selected Wednesday in the child molestation scandal that brought down Joe Paterno, and the makeup of the panel left no doubt this is Penn State country.
The seven women and five men who will hear opening statements on Monday in the case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky include an engineering administrative assistant at Penn State, a dance teacher in the school’s continuing education program and a professor who has been on the faculty for 24 years.
They also 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.
One of four alternate jurors was selected Wednesday, a woman in her 30s who graduated from Penn State in 2007 with a degree in human development. Three more alternates remain to be picked, and a prosecutor said he thought those selections could be finished Wednesday afternoon.
The selection process moved swiftly even though the rural area is rich with Penn State employees, alumni and fans. The judge, however, said Penn State connections would not automatically disqualify potential jurors, so long as they could pledge to be impartial.
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.
Amendola on Wednesday asked again for a delay, alleging that an ABC News report saying that the accuser identified in court papers as Victim 4 would be the first witness violated the gag order Judge John Cleland issued in April. Cleland denied Amendola’s request.
The lawyers who will argue the case said on the way into the courthouse Wednesday they were happy with the process so far.
During a midday break, lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan, a senior deputy attorney general, said “So far, so good,” on way to smoking a cigarette at a picnic table outside the courthouse.
Amendola arrived with Sandusky just after 8:15 a.m. and told reporters he was confident the nine jurors picked on Tuesday would give them a “fair shake.” Sandusky himself did not say anything as he entered the building in Bellefonte, about 12 miles from the university where he once worked.
But he displayed the most emotion yet during the two-day selection process during a break Wednesday. Sandusky turned to two media representatives in the room and asked rhetorically, “What did you guys do to deserve me?” He chuckled before adding, “How did you guys get stuck with this?”
Besides the panelists with ties to Penn State, jurors include 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.
But the breadth of Penn State connections was evident again in the second day of jury selection, an exhaustive process done in phases. Groups of 40 were questioned at a time, and those who weren’t excused from that portion were then questioned individually to finally determine if they can be seated.
Of the 40 initially 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. Eighteen indicated they had jobs or other responsibilities in which they were legally required to report instances of alleged child abuse.
Sandusky was quiet in court during this phase early Wednesday, leafing through a binder with plastic-covered pages and pausing at times when 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.
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.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)