Jerry Sandusky's child sex abuse trial begins today

State College - Centre Daily TimesJune 5, 2012 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday denied Jerry Sandusky’s last-ditch effort to delay jury selection, meaning the much-anticipated child sex abuse case moves to a Bellefonte courtroom today.

More than 200 Centre County residents summoned for jury duty are expected for jury selection, which will start at 8 this morning.

“Based on the Supreme Court’s decision earlier (Monday) regarding our continuance request, I’ll see everyone in court in the morning,” defense attorney Joe Amendola said Monday in an email to reporters.

The Supreme Court’s decision did not provide a reason for denying what was Amendola’s appeal of two lower courts’ decisions. Amendola had appealed to the state’s highest court after his latest request for a delay was denied by trial judge John Cleland and then the state Superior Court.

Jurors apparently will remain anonymous throughout the process and be called upon by their assigned number, said county Court Administrator Maxine Ishler.

The judge is expected to give instructions to the entire jury pool, of which 40 people will be called to proceed to a phase of group questioning in another courtroom. The questioning is intended to weed out those who attorneys believe can’t be unbiased.

Once the group phase is over, the prospective jurors will go one by one into the judge’s chambers for individual questioning.

The process will repeat until 12 jurors and four alternates are selected.

Prospective jurors already have completed questionnaires, which are in the possession of attorneys.

The prosecution’s lead attorney is Joseph E. McGettigan III.

Also Monday, Cleland denied a defense request to get access to juror information collected by the prosecution.

Cleland said the defense’s motion didn’t have any facts that the prosecution had such information. The defense just provided an anonymous letter that supposedly contains research the prosecution collected as well as a copy of a letter that was attached to the jury pool list when given to counsel, Cleland wrote.

The prosecution wrote in its reply, according to Cleland’s order, that its investigators were not “improperly peering into their (jurors’) private lives” and the research they got is what “any diligent defense attorney would collect.”

Amendola had wanted a hearing in front of the judge and planned to call a prosecutor as a witness, but Cleland declined to have one because of the lack of factual basis for the motion.

Sandusky, 68, faces 52 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys. He has maintained that he’s innocent.

Court officials have been planning for weeks to accommodate the influx of people.

TV news trucks started rolling into downtown Bellefonte late Sunday, and by Monday afternoon, reporters in suits were readying for live shots in front of the courthouse.

Trucks with giant satellite dishes have obscured the view from the downtown diamond of the Victorian-era courthouse.

Orange lines sprayed on the grass in front of the courthouse mark off the spots reserved for each TV station’s camera crews.

Monday, Ishler took a phone call from a news organization that wanted to mount a camera on the courthouse’s back entrance to catch everyone going in and out. That request was denied.

“We’re as ready as we’re going to be,” said Ishler, who has been the main liaison between the county court, Cleland, the state court system, and the state newspaper and broadcasting trade groups.

County Administrator Tim Boyde said everything is in place, including having extra security staff and additional Wi-Fi lines in the Courthouse Annex.

“The court administration worked very diligently with the judge and the other involved parties,” Boyde said. “I think we’re prepped and ready to go.”

The possibility of extra traffic prompted the state Department of Transportation’s local maintenance office to put up an electronic sign on Benner Pike coming into Bellefonte warning drivers: “Congested area ahead.”

According to the maintenance office, workers usually put the sign up each year for the Bellefonte Cruise, which starts June 15. This year, the sign went up early because of the potential for traffic.

CDT staff writer Anne Danahy contributed to this report.

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