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Sandusky Case: How Jury Selection Will Work

by on May 23, 2012 6:00 AM

The Jerry Sandusky trial is set to start in a mere 13 days and the first step is the appointing of an impartial jury.

Selection of the sequestered jury, set to begin June 5, is expected to take at least two weeks. Centre County Chief Public Defender David Crowley helped to shed some light on what could be a long process.

The term 'jury selection' is a misnomer, he said.

"One does not select a jury," Crowley wrote in an email. "One de-selects individuals from a random grouping of one's peers."

To start, a computer program selects at least 400 names at random to be interviewed for a final seat on the jury. Those who have legitimate reasons that they can not attend jury selection will be excused, Crowley said. Those who are eligible to sit on the jury will be issued a state-approved questionnaire to fill out.

Questioning is carried out by the judge, the individual attorneys or the judge and the attorneys.

"In Centre County, our judges typically permit the attorneys to do the questioning and only become involved if there is an objection or if a question needs follow-up," Crowley said.

That questioning could address topics such as, "How would you vote on an issue," or "How do you know one of the attorneys or someone involved in the case, and how might it affect your opinion?" Carried out correctly, Crowley said this is the process by which any biases might be revealed.

Crowley said the side who's burden of proof it is to prove will question potential jurors first, so in the Sandusky case, the Attorney General's office will ask questions to the group individual to make a decision as to whether there is a challenge for cause for the judge to excuse a certain juror or if it is on one which an attorney wants to use a preemptory strike.

In a one-defendant felony case, Crowley said each side is granted 8 preemptory challenges, which allows a juror to be dismissed without an explicit reason.

Crowley said in cases of "extraordinary notoriety," the court may permit what is called individual voir dire, which allows the judge and attorneys to questions each potential juror individually, rather than in front of the others where every answer can be heard.

There has only been one other case in more than two decades prosecuted in Centre County where the jury was sequestered, Crowley said, who offered that he is "not a fan" of such a practice.

In the event of a sequestered jury, each juror takes an oath not to discuss the case, investigate it or make any decisions before any final jury deliberation.

"Sequestering them in a hotel after they are seated gives the court some control over these factors, especially the investigation part," Crowley wrote.

"On the other hand, it might be extremely naïve to stick 14 people with nothing in common other than the trial in a hotel for a week or a month and expect them not to discuss the trial or their opinions about what they have heard and seen."

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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