Jury selection in the child sex-abuse trial of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was more than halfway completed after a first day of questioning that revealed the intricate ties that bind the sprawling university and the rural community it calls home.
Five of the nine jurors selected Monday acknowledged deep links to the school or to potential witnesses. Five men and four women were selected for the 12-person panel.
One, a woman believed to be retired, said her husband once worked with the father of key witness Michael McQueary, the Penn State football assistant who has told a state grand jury that in 2001, he saw Sandusky in the school's locker-room shower with a young boy engaged in sexual conduct.
The woman also conceded under questioning that family members were Penn State football season ticket holders since the 1970s.
While attorneys mulled striking her from the pool, it was Sandusky who commented to his lawyer that he thought she could be "fair."
Another panelist, a rising senior at Penn State, said he also worked for the athletic department and was coached by a potential witness related to the allegations involving an alleged victim, designated by the grand jury as "Victim 1," whose report to authorities in 2009 led to the broader investigation into Sandusky's relationship with children.
"This is … rural Pennsylvania," Judge John Cleland told prosecutors and defense attorneys as they encountered the candidates with ties to the school. "These kinds of relationships cannot be avoided."
Sandusky, 68, is charged with abusing 10 alleged victims. Many, prosecutors say, were picked by Sandusky from the ranks of the charity he founded for at-risk children. Once a community icon, Sandusky could face life imprisonment if convicted on 52 criminal counts of alleged child abuse that spanned 15 years.
The selection of the unnamed jurors came after Cleland told the pool of 220 prospective candidates that the final panel of 12 jurors and four alternates would not be sequestered and that he would trust them to block out outside information and discussion about the case until they rendered a verdict.
Among the candidates excused was a worker for Sandusky's former charity, the Second Mile, from whose ranks he is alleged to have picked many of his victims. Another woman, who taught a child before he was adopted by Sandusky's family, was excused. And a local township manager was eliminated after she said media coverage of the case had "ripped apart" the community.