Jury selection begins in sexual abuse trial
BELLEFONTE, Pa. – Jerry Sandusky chuckled along with prospective jurors when the judge overseeing his case said he came from the “icebox” of Pennsylvania.
But the seriousness quickly set in for Sandusky on Monday, as the jury selection phase of his child sex abuse case started, and Judge John Cleland told the more than 200 prospective jurors that it was their role to determine the outcome of the case.
“I need you to have an open mind, as the defendant is charged with sexual abuse of children,” said Cleland, wearing a dark suit standing in front of the jury pool. But Cleland didn’t speak specifically about the charges.
Sandusky turned in his chair to face the judge and looked intent during the 20 minutes the judge spoke.
Cleland was warm to the jury pool, speaking as a friend with good advice. He said they wouldn’t be sequestered, and because of that, he was stern he didn’t want them reading a single word in the news or watching TV pertaining to the case.
They aren’t allowed to write any Facebook posts about it, nor tweet. They are also restricted from blogging.
“I’m trusting you,” he said in a voice as friendly as it was serious: “I know it sounds crazy, but it’s really important.”
Forty would-be jurors were chosen for a group questioning process to determine if they can be impartial. The process is called voir dire, and Cleland explained that the reason why a French word is used is because the process goes back 1,000 years.
In the group questioning phase, Cleland asked the jurors questions such as if and how they’re connected to Penn State, if they have any ties to The Second Mile charity founded by Sandusky or even if any of them knew him personally.
Four people indicated they knew Sandusky, and two indicated they knew his wife, Dottie.
Sue and Jay Paterno are on the defense’s list as two of five dozen possible witnesses. The prosecution’s list is much shorter, with their witnesses including the alleged victims.
Jurors moved on to a third round where they’ll be questioned one-on-one.
By Michael Dawson, Wild About Trial correspondent.
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