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Dec 15, 2012 7:54pm
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BELLEFONTE, Pa. Pat McAfee Jersey . —A jury dominated by
people with Penn State loyalties was selected Wednesday to decide Jerry
Sanduskys fate in the child sexual abuse scandal that rocked the university and
led to football coach Joe Paternos downfall. The seven women and five men who
will hear opening statements on Monday include an engineering administrative
assistant at Penn State, a dance teacher in the continuing education program and
a professor who has been on the faculty for 24 years. Also: a Penn State senior,
a retired soil sciences professor with 37 years at the university, a man with
bachelors and masters degrees from the school and a woman who has been a season
ticketholder since the 1970s. Sandusky, a 68-year-old former assistant football
coach, is charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year span. Picking the
jury took less than two days, moving along more swiftly than some had expected,
given that the rural area is rich with Penn State employees, alumni and fans,
many of whom have strong opinions about the case. Bellefonte is 12 miles from
Penn States main campus in State College. 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. Some legal experts said jurors with Penn
State connections might be inclined to come down hard on Sandusky, blaming him
for Paternos firing and the damage to the schools reputation. Or they might take
their frustrations out on prosecutors for bringing the case in the first place.
St. Vincent College law professor Bruce Antkowiak said the Penn State factor
could cut both ways. “In one sense, you worry about, this guy was for many years
of his life a hero of that community, an idol,” Antkowiak said, referring to
Sanduskys role as founder of an acclaimed charity for youngsters. “On the other
hand, theres also the consideration that there are people who believe this guy
betrayed so much of what gave this institution and this area so much of the
character and innocence that we love, that he has besmirched it in such a
profound way.” On the list of potential witnesses, along with the young men who
have accused Sandusky, are Paternos widow and son and assistant coach Mike
McQueary, who said he saw Sandusky naked in a team shower with a boy more than a
decade ago and reported it to Paterno. Paterno was fired in November for not
acting more decisively against Sandusky. He died of lung cancer two months later
at 85. On Wednesday, defence lawyer Joseph Amendola asked again for a delay in
the trial, alleging that the judges gag order was violated by an ABC report that
said the accuser identified in court papers as Victim 4 would be the first
witness. Judge John Cleland denied the request. Amendola arrived with Sandusky
at the courthouse in the morning and told reporters he was confident the nine
jurors picked at that time would give them a “fair shake.” Lead prosecutor
Joseph McGettigan said: “So far, so good.” In court, Sandusky, who has
acknowledged he showered with boys but says he never molested them, quietly
leafed through a binder with plastic-covered pages. During a break, he turned to
two media representatives and asked with a chuckle, “What did you guys do to
deserve me?” and “How did you guys get stuck with this?” Several prospective
jurors showed up at the courthouse in clothing with Penn State logos. And the
web of Penn State connections was evident when a group of 40 potential jurors
was questioned Wednesday. Ten indicated they worked at the university. Nineteen
indicated they or a close family member had volunteered or contributed
financially to Penn State. Fifteen said they knew someone on the prosecutions
witness list, while 20 knew someone on Sanduskys defence list. Juror No. 12 has
been a professor at Penn State for more than two decades and worked on a
committee with university president Graham Spanier, who was ousted in the wake
of the scandal. Jules Epstein, a criminal defence attorney and law professor at
Widener University School of Law in Delaware, said the defence might try to use
the Penn State-heavy jury to its advantage by calling people with strong ties to
the university to vouch for Sanduskys character. “If some of those witnesses are
also respected in the Penn State community, you are subtly, softly making that
link,” he said. Epstein said the defence would be wise to avoid trying to cast
the trial as a vendetta against Penn State and Paterno. Jurors will probably see
through that strategy, he said. “I can see somebody saying, This case isnt about
Penn State. This is about a bunch of youngsters whose lives were ruined,”
Epstein said.