Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Judge Cleland credited with swift selection of Jerry Sandusky jury

Judge John M. Cleland arrives at the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte, Pa., Wednesday, June 6, 2012, for the second day of jury selection of the Jerry Sandusky trial.  Sandusky is a former Penn State assistant football coach charged with sexually abusing children.  Nabil K. Mark
Judge John M. Cleland arrives at the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte, Pa., Wednesday, June 6, 2012, for the second day of jury selection of the Jerry Sandusky trial. Sandusky is a former Penn State assistant football coach charged with sexually abusing children. Nabil K. Mark Centre Daily Times

Senior Judge John Cleland’s approach has been credited with moving along the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case.

On Wednesday, that held up again. Cleland finished seating 12 jurors and 4 alternates from Centre County, and he did it two days ahead of schedule.

“It’s a surprise when they say jury selection is going to be four days and they get it done in two days,” local attorney Bernard Cantorna said Wednesday afternoon outside a crowded Centre County courthouse.

After the last alternate was picked, legal experts pointed to Cleland’s hands-on approach with aiding the process, even if not all agreed two days is fast for jury selection.

Criminal defense expert Jules Epstein, an associate professor at Widener University’s law school, said jury selection in Pennsylvania normally happens in hours, not days.

Along with wrapping up jury selection in two days, not the four that had been allotted, Cleland told the jury pool that he expects the case to be finished by the end of the month.

Epstein said he thinks the judge will make the trial move along at an economical speed.

“It strikes me that the judge is going to be very hands on to move the the case forward in an orderly way,” Epstein said.

He said that based on what he read, Cleland decided that ties to Penn State alone would not disqualify someone from serving.

“As soon as you take that away, it means we’re not going to be eliminating lots and lots of people from the job,” he said.

Opening statements in the trial of the former Penn State football coach are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Gunner Gleason, a well-known Johnstown-area defense attorney with 51 years of courtroom experience, was surprised by the brevity of the jury selection.

“I expected it to be a drawn-out process,” he said. “It appears the judge moved things along.”

Gleason, who’s experienced defending individuals accused of sex-related offenses, said most of the cases, especially Internet-related ones, are plea-bargained.

“With sex crimes, there are mandatory sentences. You try to stay away from that and get down to a lesser sentence. But a guy who is older is less apt to look positively at something just because it is a lesser sentence. For him, it’s still a life sentence. So he knows he has nothing to lose by trying the thing.”

Matt McClenahen, State College defense attorney, said both sides are probably glad to have jury selection done in two days.

“Now they can redouble their efforts to get ready by Monday,” he said. “You always want as much time as possible to prepare.”

McClenahen said a jury in Centre County, home to a university, can be a plus for the defense.

In this case, the jury includes a professor, an engineer, a high school science teacher and a retired professor.

“They share an above-average intelligence,” he said. “And it’s always good for the defense when you have intelligent, open-minded, thoughtful jurors. What you don’t want for the defense is people who have a very black-and-white view of the world.

“The science professor is probably the ideal juror. He will take a very analytical approach. He’s not going to want to make a decision until he hears all of the evidence. His mind is trained to see things in a scientific formula.”

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter

Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy CDT Editor Chip Minemyer contributed to this report.

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