Jury selection began in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Gerald A. Sandusky and so starts the biggest trial involving Penn State University and the Penn State University football program.
Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State football assistant coach, is charged with 52 counts of sexually abusing ten boys over a fifteen-year period. The charges against Sandusky were filed last November and led to the firing of legendary head football coach Joe Paterno.
As for the trial, more than 600 summonses were sent out to residents in Cerntre County, since the defense for Sandusky successfully argued that jurors should be chosen from among people who live in the State College area, where Penn State’s main campus is located. Therefore, this will be a jury of Sandusky’s peers, his actual neighbors.
But is this a good trial tactic?
Sandusky’s attorney must believe that a jury with intimate ties to the university and the football program, and hold passionate opinions for Coach Joe Paterno, can deliver an acquittal, as apposed to jurors from another part of the state that is less Penn State-centric. “We feel there’s no better place than Centre County from which to select fair-minded individuals to sit as jurors in Jerry’s case,” Sandusky’s attorney argued.
Is Sandusky’s attorney counting on some lingering support for the defensive coordinator who helped Penn State to two national titles? Or it is that some will view Sandusky as representing legendary Coach Paterno? Or is it simply because he feared backlash from a sequestered jury hauled halfway across the state?
This is quite a gamble.
Centre County residents are more likely to have been inundated with information and may already formed an opinion. They may have harsher feelings toward Sandusky. And counting on support for Paterno translating to Sandusky, who essentially caused the legendary coach’s downfall and disgrace, is tenuous. Also, the jurors will have to return home and explain their decision to potentially angry friends, neighbors, and the nation.
It’s often the defense that seeks a jury pool with less intense knowledge and emotional ties to the case. We shall see if Sandusky’s trail tactics prevail. As the old saying goes – Be careful for what you wish for.