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Sandusky trial and the challenges jurors face serving on sex abuse cases

by AirTalk®

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Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky leaves the Centre County Courthouse after jury selection began in his child sex abuse trial on June 5, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Nine jurors were selected yesterday in the sex-abuse trial of former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. In total, there will be 12 jurors and two alternates chosen this week. All are residents of Centre County, Pennsylvania, home of the university.

The defense team fought to keep the local venue, in hopes that the jurors would be more sympathetic. Prosecutors expressed concerns that many would likely have connections to Penn State and Sandusky. But Judge John Cleland, who’s presiding over the trial, indicated that those connections aren’t enough to keep prospective jurors from being chosen.

Sandusky is accused of abusing 10 boys over 15 years, starting in 1994. Sandusky has denied any sexual activity with the boys and has pleaded not guilty. Opening arguments and subsequent testimony are scheduled to begin June 11. Whatever the outcome of the case, the jurors themselves are likely to be in for a long and difficult haul. They’ll have to sit through hours of sexually graphic and emotional testimony, all the while trying to be fair and impartial. They will also face intense public pressure due to the high profile nature of this case.

What are the unique challenges of picking juries for cases involving sex crimes and children? What’s it like to serve on cases like these, given the sometimes grisly details jurors hear, day after day? Have you – could you – do your civic duty?


Rich Matthews, Senior Trial Consultant, Juryology, a San Francisco-based firm that advises lawyers on all matters pertaining to jury trials, from jury strategy and selection through crafting the right message

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