Jury selection for the Mike McQueary whistleblower lawsuit began Monday with a pool of more than 200 potential jurors.
Residents from throughout the county filled the main courtroom at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte to await interviews and the court’s decision on who will be filling the 12 regular and four alternative juror slots. According to court staff, 750 summons had been sent out, of which 219 had responded and shown up for selection that morning.
Jurors will decide the outcome of McQueary’s suit against Penn State in which he claims he suffered for his part in the grand jury investigation and trial of retired Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Trial is set for Oct. 17 and is expected to take up to two weeks.
Potential jurors filled out a questionnaire prior to interviews by Elliot Strokoff — McQueary’s attorney — and Nancy Conrad — attorney for Penn State. The questionnaire, which was provided to the media, was made up of 32 questions evaluating an individual’s ability to serve as a juror with numerous inquiries into a potential juror’s relationship with the university.
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Questions asked of the potential jurors included whether he or she was a graduate of Penn State, if they or anyone they know does substantial business with the university and if they or anyone close to them had been a victim of sexual abuse or assault.
According to pool reporters, Strokoff and Conrad appeared to focus their questioning around any association with the university and the appearance of bias that could create. Attorneys reportedly frequently questioned those reporting an existing relationship with the university, to see if they were concerned of reprisal from Penn State should they choose to serve as a juror, and if these individuals were protected by union contracts or tenure.
Potential jurors waiting in the courtroom appeared evenly split between men and women, were predominantly white and appeared to favor those middle-aged and older over younger possible jurors.
By Monday afternoon, pool reporters said, 25 potential jurors had been interviewed, with six selected to be considered for the trial jury. Chester County Senior Judge Thomas Gavin, who is presiding over the case, was reported to have wanted a pool of 28 individuals from which to select the final 16 jurors.
Pool reporters gave some details on the six chosen, noting three were male and three were female, all were white and three reported relationships with the university — either having previously worked for or currently working for Penn State, or having a spouse who works for the university. Strokoff reportedly attempted to reject the three associated with Penn State, but was denied by Gavin.
Jury selection is expected to continue through Tuesday.
“Residents of Centre County are willing to step up to the plate,” jury commissioner Hope Miller said during a break in selection. “We sent off 750 summons, but those 219 who responded, they’re going to step up and serve.”