Discuss as:

Jerry Sandusky trial: Many jurors have Penn State ties

A panel of seven women and five men will begin hearing evidence next week in the sexual abuse trial of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. NBC's Brian Williams has more.

 

A retired school bus driver, a Wal-Mart employee, a Penn State professor and a Penn State football season ticketholder since the 1970s. They are among the 12 jurors and four alternates selected to hear the child sex abuse case against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

With jury selection completed on Wednesday, the judge said the trial would begin next week.

Sandusky 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. The 68-year-old grandfather has denied the allegations.


At least one jury expert says Sandusky’s attorney, Joe Amendola, was wise to insist that the case be tried locally. Prosecutors had sought an out-of-county jury.

“I think quite frankly that Amendola is hedging his bets, and he’s very lucky he’s picking his jury in the area. I think he will probably find one person in that pool who will keep Jerry Sandusky from being convicted,” said Robin Wertz, a jury consultant based in Reading, Pa., and a one-time Penn State football season-ticket holder.

“Penn State fans and people with connections to Penn State have a loyalty like none other, and they may need to see some real hard evidence, more so than people from out of town, to convict one of their own," Wertz told msnbc.com. "If there is a close call in this case … I think that Amendola’s smartest move was to hope for that one person in that Penn State community that will prevent a conviction.”

But Howard Varinsky, a leading trial consultant who has been involved in high-profile cases, including those of Michael Jackson, Phil Spector, Jack Kevorkian and Timothy McVeigh, said Sandusky would probably have been better off with a change of venue.

“It sounds like you have a pretty straight jury there, and it sounds like a prosecution jury to me,” he said.

“The defense is hoping that with at least two science people on the jury. They get very picky on their evidence and want to see hard facts. There are no hard facts here. This is all witness testimony,” Varinsky said.

12-person jury, alternates chosen in Sandusky case

Details emerged of the selected jury's composition from the Bellefonte, Pa., courtroom. Many revealed a strong connection to Penn State. A look at jurors:

Juror 1: A woman and Wal-Mart employee. She has two daughters. She said she doesn’t know much about the case.

Juror 2: A 24-year-old man who plans to start school in the fall to study automotive technology.

Juror 3: A woman whose husband is a physician in the same medical group in which John McQueary, the father of one of the key witnesses in the case, worked. The woman also has been a football season ticket holder since the 1970s.

Sandusky's attorney had moved to strike the woman as a juror, but Judge John Cleland overruled his objection.

"We're in Centre County. We're in rural Pennsylvania," Cleland said. "There are these (connections) that cannot be avoided."

Juror 4: An engineer who is married to a librarian. "I do read blogs and papers,” he said. “I did make a point of avoiding stories about this case. I reach a saturation point about 2 ½ months ago. Once I received the summons I thought it would be better not read anyone."

Watch the most-viewed videos on msnbc.com

Juror 5: A Bellefonte High School physics and chemistry teacher. He has two boys, ages 5 and 2. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Penn State in 2003 and 2008. Asked by the defense attorney if he could be fair because he has two young boys, he says he could. He said he doesn't read too many newspapers and if he does, it’s the sports section. He said he knows about the case but not beyond common knowledge.

Juror 6: A married woman in her 20s. She works at a department store. She doesn't read the newspapers and said she has not heard any specific details of the case. She said she has no opinion about the case.

Juror 7: A Penn State junior who works part-time for the university’s sports facility. He is in his 20s and does administrative work for track and softball. He wore a Penn State archery T-shirt.  He read a lot about the case and had opinions, he said, but could put them aside for the trial.

His cousin also played on the Penn State football team for six years, and his mom works for the State College Area School District. He said his mom knows more, but has not shared it with him.

Juror 8: A retired Penn State professor in his late 60s or early 70s. He is married and worked as a soil science professor in the Department of Agriculture for 37 years. He’s been retired for four years.

Juror 9: A retired woman in her 70s.

Juror 10: She works at Penn State as an administrative assistant in engineering. She doesn't know anyone in case. She has two daughters and four grandchildren.

Juror 11: A 30-year-old woman who worked part-time at Penn State as a dance class instructor. She said she has had conversations with her husband about the case. Her husband is a media specialist at the Larson Institute at Penn State. She has a Facebook account, has watched television and read newspapers, but hasn't seen information recently. She knows one potential witness through her dance connections, she said. She has one son, age 6. She has not experienced abuse in her life.

Juror 12: A woman in her 50s or 60s who has been a Penn State professor for 24 years. She did not say what she teaches or what department she works in. She said she has read some news accounts and the Sandusky grand jury report. She also worked on a small committee with ousted Penn State President Graham Spanier.

Alternate 1: A 30-year-old woman who is a Penn State graduate student majoring in human development. She said Sandusky spoke at her graduation.

Alternate 2: A married woman with no children. She said she can be impartial and ready to commit herself to the time the trial would take. "I'm really bad about reading the newspaper. I don't watch a lot of television," she said.

Alternate 3: A man in his 50s. He is married and has two sons, ages 29 and 30. He works in Reading, Pa. He said he talked to his wife about it but wasn't overly exposed to facts of the case. He read the grand jury report when it first came out, but said he hasn't kept up with latest developments. He doesn't get a newspaper or follow blogs, he said.

He graduated from Penn State and his wife is the director for Upward Bound (a program within Penn State geared towards getting high school children prepared for college). This program has no connection with Sandusky’s charity, Second Mile. He attends high school football games. Asked about his two boys and whether he would be able to be objective, he nodded yes. His wife is a reporter, he said. His sister's husband is a retired corrections officer. He said did not know anyone who had been a victim of sexual assault.

Alternate 4: A woman in her 60s. She said she doesn't believe a lot of what is reported in the media and staunchly believes in innocence until proven guilty. She adamantly agreed that prosecution must prove its case. She said she’s seen enough television and movies to know that it "has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt."

Msnbc.com's Sevil Omer and James Eng contributed to this story, as did NBC News's Tom Winter.

More content from msnbc.com and NBC News:

Follow US News on msnbc.com on Twitter and Facebook