Thirty-one-year-old Alissa Milanese, of Bellefonte, left the Centre County Courthouse on Wednesday morning not knowing why she had been excused from jury duty for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse trial.
She got as far as the group questioning phase, where she was crossed off the list. One thing that may have triggered her departure: Family members who have ties to The Second Mile charity Sandusky founded.
No one on the 16-person jury appears to have a tie to the charity authorities said he used to meet the boys he allegedly abused. The attorneys also avoided people who knew potential witnesses or those with strong opinions about the case.
Prosecutors in the case unsuccessfully asked the judge for an out-of-county jury. They were up against Sandusky, who said he wanted the 12 people who will issue the verdict in the case to come from Centre County.
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Jury selection took place more speedily than expected — in less than
two days. Many of the chosen jurors have ties to Penn State. But, other potential jury members were eliminated at the request of either the prosecution or defense. Attorneys can make a motion for cause — giving a reason the judge to remove the juror. If that fails, they can use one of the seven challenges they’re given.
Here’s a look at who else was excused:
•A woman whose 25-year-old son had a friend who participated in Second Mile activities and sat on the bench during football games with Sandusky.
•A woman who works for the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County and once worked with Dave Woodle, the current interim CEO of The Second Mile. Both sides agreed.
•A man retired from Penn State’s Applied Research Lab said he had an indirect connection to Ron Schreffler, the retired university police detective who investigated Sandusky in 1998. The man said his wife knew Schreffler’s wife from church and had heard third-party about the 1998 incident. The man said he had a “very good opinion” of Schreffler. Defense attorney Joe Amendola used a peremptory challenge to remove him after Senior Judge John Cleland denied a motion for cause.
•A woman who told Cleland her thoughts on the case: “I definitely have opinions, and I’d be happy to share them with you.” It didn’t take long for her to be dismissed.
•Amendola used a peremptory challenge on a young woman who said she had no connections to Penn State, thought she could be fair but had worked for John McQueary Sr., the father of likely witness Mike Mc- Queary.
•Prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan III used a peremptory challenge to dismiss a Bellefonte man who works at Penn State as an alumni relations staffer in the College of Engineering. McGettigan seemed wary of his having a position that requires contact with the public.
•An elderly man who was quickly excused after he told the judge and the attorneys that he was put in foster case when he was 10 years old. He said that experience would make it hard for him to hear the case impartially.
•A man who’s a Penn State graduate said he knew Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, because they attend the same State College church. The man was excused by the judge after the personal connection was revealed.
•A man who works for the Rockview state prison said he has read files that show “some pretty bad stuff” that happens to children. He said he couldn’t be impartial and was dismissed.
•An elderly woman who was excused after she told the judge she already made up her mind about the case. “I’ve been reading everything in the paper since it started last fall,” she said.
•A woman in her 30s who said she had no opinions that would bias her, but she had ties to two potential witnesses and used to manage a day-care, which made her a mandated reporter of abuse. She said she occasionally made reports. Amendola used a peremptory challenge to remove her.
•A woman in her late 20s who told the judge that people said to her upon finding out she was in the jury pool, “ ‘Oh it would be great if you were on the jury because you could convict him.’ ” She said it would be difficult to be fair, and Amendola used a peremptory challenge.
•McGettigan used a peremptory challenge to remove a man who said his wife once made a $50 donation to The Second Mile.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT