Jury selection off to fast start in Sandusky sex abuse trial
BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Jury selection resumes Wednesday in the child sex abuse trial of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a day after nine jurors were picked in a fast-paced first day of naming a panel.
Five men and four women, all white, were chosen on Tuesday as jury selection began in Centre County Court, putting Judge John Cleland's goal of starting trial on Monday well within reach.
Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, faces 52 counts of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period. He has pleaded not guilty and faces more than 500 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Prosecutors have accused Sandusky, 68, of meeting the boys through a charity he founded, the Second Mile, and have claimed that some of the assaults occurred at Penn State facilities.
ABC News reported that intimate love letters allegedly from Sandusky to one of his accusers, described in court documents as Victim 4, would be read into testimony once trial begins. The letters are allegedly written in the former coach's handwriting.
Citing sources close to the case, ABC said Victim 4, now 28, was expected to be the first witness to testify. He met Sandusky through the Second Mile and is expected to show gifts, including golf clubs, Sandusky gave him during their alleged relationship, the network said.
The sexual abuse charges shook the school, prompted the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier, and put an unprecedented focus on sexual predation.
Paterno, the winningest coach in major U.S. college football history, died of lung cancer in January, just over two months after his firing. Potential jurors were told his wife Sue and son Jay may be called as witnesses in the trial.
Twelve jurors and four alternates will be selected. The nine chosen include a retired bus driver, a Penn State student, a high school teacher, an engineer and a Wal-Mart employee.
Experts had predicted a prolonged selection process from a 220-member pool, given the close-knit ties of the area's small towns and farms and Penn State's role as the biggest local employer.
"WE'RE IN RURAL PENNSYLVANIA"
Underscoring the web of relationships, one of the jurors is a woman who said she was acquainted with the father of a key prosecution witness, former graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary, according to a reporter covering the proceedings on a pool basis.
The juror's husband worked as a doctor at a medical practice managed by McQueary's father, John McQueary. The younger McQueary has alleged he saw Sandusky raping a boy in a shower in a Penn State locker room in 2001 and told his father about it.
Sandusky's attorney, Joe Amendola, had moved to strike the woman as a juror, but Cleland overruled his objection.
"We're in Centre County. We're in rural Pennsylvania," Cleland said. "There are these (connections) that cannot be avoided."
Cleland told potential jurors that he would not sequester them once the trial begins. He said he expected the trial to run until the end of the month.
All press except for pool reporters have been banned from jury selection in Bellefonte, a town of 6,200 residents about 10 miles northeast of State College, the site of Penn State's main campus.
The case has drawn intense media attention, with about two dozen television trucks drawn up outside the Greek Revival courthouse in Bellefonte's 19th-century downtown and reporters crowding the courthouse lawn.