It would have been difficult to go anywhere in the U.S. and find 12 jurors who knew nothing about former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and the ugly child molestation allegations against him. But the potential problems of holding the trial in small-townish Centre County, Pa., were reaffirmed in the last two days.
The 16 jurors (including four alternates) have been selected from a pool of 220. Here’s the scary math: nine of the 16 have direct ties to Penn State and three have ties to key witnesses.
Prosecutors attempted to get a change of venue for the trial. They believed selecting jurors from a pool in a county with a population of just over 150,000 — by comparison, Fulton County is about 950,000 — could be problematic. As horrible a crime as child molestation is, anybody who had direct or indirect connections — or allegiances — with Penn State, Sandusky or defense witnesses might have a difficult time believing the 40 felony counts of deviate sexual intercourse against Sandusky.
It takes only one person to hang a juror.
Here’s a look at some of the 16 jurors, via the Patriot News:
• Juror 2: A 24-year-old who plans to start school at Penn State in the fall. His father worked at the university for 30 years.
• Juror 3: Her husband is a physician who worked with Mike McQueary’s father and her family has held season tickets for several years. McQueary is the assistant coach who claimed to see Sandusky with a youth in the shower.
• Juror 7: A male who is a Penn State rising senior who played for a high school football coach who hired Sandusky as a volunteer assistant. He also works for the Penn State athletic department part time and came to court wearing a PSU archery shirt.
• Juror 8: A man who is a retired Penn State professor.
• Juror 10: A woman who works at Penn State as an administrative assistant.
• Juror 11: A woman who is an education instructor of dance at the school. Also, her husband works as a media information specialist at the school.
• Juror 12: A woman professor who also has worked on committees with past and current university presidents.
• Juror 13 (alternate): She is a Penn State graduate.
• Juror 15 (alternate): He walked into court and smiled at Sandusky. Graduate of Penn State. Also a football fan.
Now, I will admit it’s not fair to assume that somebody would look the other way if presented with evidence against Sandusky, just because they’re a Penn State booster. But I think it’s just as fair to be concerned that at least one might be close-minded when it comes to analyzing evidence and testimony.
This isn’t about what’s right or wrong, it’s just the reality of the situation. We’ve seen enough trials in the past that went one way even though the evidence clearly went the other. There’s reason to be concerned that a fair and impartial jury has been seated.
The trial begins Monday the judge
By Jeff Schultz