Jerry Sandusky Trial: Most jurors selected have strong ties to Penn State

Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky arrives for the first day of jury selection as his trial on 52 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 boys over a period of 15 years gets underway at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., June 5, 2012.
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
Jerry Sandusky arrives in court Tuesday, June 5, 2012
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

(CBS/AP) BELLEFONTE, Pa. - Most of the jurors chosen to hear the sex abuse case against Jerry Sandusky have heavy ties to Penn State, and legal experts are debating whether they can remain impartial.

Pictures: Child-sex scandal rocks Penn State

Twelve jurors and four alternates were selected to hear the case of  former assistant coach Sandusky, 68, who is charged with 52 criminal counts involving 10 alleged victims over a 15-year span. He has denied the allegations.

One female juror is a professor at the university, while another works as an administrative assistant there. Other jurors include a woman has held season tickets to Penn State football since the 1970s, a student who will be a senior this fall, and a man whose father who worked at the university's Office of Physical Plant for three decades.

Legal experts said jurors with university connections may be inclined to come down hard on Sandusky, blaming him for the firing of Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno as well as damaging the school's reputation.

But Judge John Cleland insisted from the beginning that such connections wouldn't immediately rule out potential jurors so long as they could pledge to be impartial. Among the 16 jurors total selected, 10 had some tie - either directly or indirectly - to Penn State, The Associated Press reports.

"From the prosecution's perspective, putting people on the jury with Penn State ties, their assessment might be these people might tend to disfavor Jerry Sandusky and the defense because he's responsible for dragging Penn State's name through the mud," said Chris Capozzi, a defense attorney in Pittsburgh and a former senior deputy attorney general under now-Gov. Tom Corbett.

Capozzi, a Penn State graduate, left the attorney general's office in 2010. The state grand jury investigation of Sandusky began while Corbett was attorney general.

According to Capozzi, Sandusky's defense lawyers appear satisfied those jurors can be fair and impartial, or that "people are going to be upset with the Office of the Attorney General and the way (the case) was handled ... and it's really the AG that's responsible for putting Penn State's name through the mud."

Sandusky's attorney again asked for a delay in the proceedings on Wednesday, a request that was denied by Cleland. Opening statements will begin Monday for a trial that is expected to last about three weeks.

"This jury has been seated with breakneck speed. I'm impressed and surprised with the expeditious manner with which it occurred. I think it speaks (favorably) of Cleland and the lawyers involved," said Robert Del Greco, a criminal defense attorney in Pittsburgh, and member of the Criminal Litigation Section council of the Allegheny County Bar Association.

"If that is a harbinger of things to come ... we'll have a verdict within weeks (rather) than months."

Complete coverage of the Penn State sex abuse scandal on Crimesider