Twelve jurors and four alternates have been selected to judge whether Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State University coach, sexually abused ten male children.
More than half of the jury have ties to Sandusky and to Penn State.
Sandusky faces 52 counts of child sexual abuse and opening statements are scheduled for Monday.
The jurors 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 former university President Graham Spanier, who was fired in the aftermath of the abuse scandal.
Other jurors 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 attorneys of their links to the university, which has its main campus in rural Centre County, about 200 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
This is like a Catholic priest being on trial for child sexual abuse and the jury consisting of nuns, Catholic school teachers who work where the alleged incidents took place, and a few Bishops and Cardinals.
Sandusky appeared to be engaged in the process, leaning forward in his chair and reacting to 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?”
Is Sandusky going to schmooze his way to an acquittal?
At the start of questioning Wednesday, Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola asked for a delay in the trial to restart the jury selection with a fresh group of prospects. He argued that ABC News reports on Tuesday about “intimate love letters” that Sandusky allegedly sent to an accuser would taint the jury pool.
The judge said starting over would be unnecessary, but did quiz the jurors on the matter. None reported hearing about the letters.
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 met Sandusky through Second Mile, the charity he helped establish for at-risk children. The victim is expected to show gifts, including golf clubs, Sandusky gave him, ABC News reported.
There are seven women and five men on the jury. Some people are arguing that this means Sandusky will more likely be convicted. I disagree. Women often protect men, and they are more likely to do so if the man is an authority figure in a position of respect. On the other hand, I think some men would be more inclined to be enraged and disgusted at the allegations and about the effects on the alleged victims. I know a few men who were approached sexually by an adult male as a child, or who were sexually assaulted by adult men. I also know a couple of men who, as adults, were threatened with harm or punishment if they did not engage in sexual acts with another man. Men would be more likely to sympathize with a boy being raped or molested by a grown man.
The judge, however, said Penn State connections would not automatically disqualify potential jurors as long as they could pledge to be impartial. Eight of the 12 jurors and two of the four alternates have ties to Penn State.