PA AG Seeks Exclusion of Centre County Jurors for Sandusky

The Pennsylvania Attorney General has asked the court to empanel jurors from outside Centre County for the Jerry Sandusky trial. It says, in addition to pre-trial publicity, the Penn State Community and Centre County are "philosophically and economically” intertwined."

Sandusky's lawyer says he will fight the motion.

“Jerry’s case has drawn national attention, as a result of which we feel there’s no better place than Centre County from which to select fair-minded individuals to sit as jurors in Jerry’s case,” Amendola said. “We will vehemently oppose the commonwealth’s motion for a change of venire.”

In other words, the state wants to keep the trial in Centre County, but import jurors from other counties to decide the case. The judge will decide on Feb. 8.

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    Sequestering the Jury Might be More Significant (none / 0) (#1)
    by msaroff on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 01:04:18 PM EST
    I've been told that sequestered juries are more likely to convict.

    But I'm an engineer, not a lawyer, dammit.  (I love going Dr. McCoy)

    What say the lawyers out there?

    I think that sequestration is probably inevitable, because this is going to be a complete media circus.

    Hmmm.... (none / 0) (#2)
    by jbindc on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 01:56:40 PM EST
    People who live in Centre County might also work at Penn State and may not appreciate the publicity and black eye that l'affaire Sandusky has caused.

    By analogy... (none / 0) (#4)
    by diogenes on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 02:51:15 PM EST
    If the prosecution had asked for out of town jurors to be trucked in for the OJ murder trial, what would anyone here think?

    What the Suggestion (none / 0) (#5)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 03:06:13 PM EST
    Someone might vote not convict a local child molester out of loyalty to the school ?  (The assumption is that the juror believes he is guilty and votes not to convict)

    This may happen in certain cases, but only someone truly deranged would let a child molester go knowing there is a good chance he will stick around the area.

    If anything, I would think the locals would probably slide closer to 'better safe then sorry' then 'beyond a reasonable doubt' as the bar on conviction.

    Outsiders would not have this dilemma IMO.

    I am assuming that no employees or students will be on the jury.

    Sandusky's Reach (none / 0) (#6)
    by rdandrea on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 04:47:07 PM EST
    Goes much farther than the school.

    Don't forget the Second Mile.


    I doubt the commenters upthread really (none / 0) (#7)
    by scribe on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 05:49:53 PM EST
    understand just how central Penn State, and especially Penn State football, is to Centre County.  I'll address Second Mile in a minute.

    That county is, as the name implies, located in the center of the Commonwealth and Penn State was sited there for that reason.  All the area around it is deeply rural, much of it quite mountainous, and very thinly populated.  The one highly populated area is around State College.  The population of Penn State (44,000 studentsin University Park) makes up a substantial percentage of the total population of the county (153,000) and Penn State is the single largest employer, employing some 23,000 people in Centre County.

    That's the population and economic impact.

    Then there's the social impact.  Just about everything in central Pennsylvania (north of the first mountain north of Harrisburg) revolves around Penn State in one way or another.

    And everything there revolves around Penn State football.  Kids and adults wear jerseys and sportswear not of pro teams, but Penn State.  The world stops on football afternoons.  

    So, it's entirely plausible that the jury pool would have lots of ties not only to Penn State, but to Penn State football.  Whether that cuts for, or against, Sandusky or the Commonwealth is another matter.  I can see it going both ways.

    A lot of the people might know the kids who'll testify.  You can be sure they'll always be remembered in their small towns for this, and they won't be pleasantly treated by those small towns.  It's a very conservative area, once you leave University Park.  Some people might blame Sandusky for what happened to Paterno, some might blame the government.  You could go on ad infinitum on this.

    And then there's the Second Mile.  You could compare it, in importance and prominence in central Pennsylvania, to something like the Jimmy Fund in Boston, or whatever the biggest charity is in your town.  Remember, the judge who initially arraigned Sandusky caught flak not just for giving him bail but for doing so while being affiliated with Second Mile.  A lot of very prominent people, as prominent goes in that neighborhood, were part of Second Mile in substantial capacities.  (And they'll have to deal with lawsuits for years, too, thanks to Sandusky.)

    The problem with importing a jury pool is that, by and large, everyone in Pennsylvania has some connection to, or opinion of, Penn State and Penn State football.  Until this happened, those connections were largely regarded with pride, and the opinions positive.

    Donald the interesting part of this (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 11:36:38 PM EST
    story I think is that the prosecution is not trying to move the trial out of the county, but trying to import jurors from other counties into Centre County for trial. So the more apt question might be "has there ever been a state trial in which jurors were imported from out of state?" And I don't know the answer.

    They are not trying to change the venue of the trial, but the venue of the jury venire.

    Sandusky's lawyer wants the jurors to come from Centre County.  Section 9 of the Penn. Constitution lists the rights of defendants and among them is the right to:

    a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the vicinage;

    Vicinage'' means neighborhood, and ''vicinage of the jury'' means jury of the neighborhood or, in medieval England, jury of the County. 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England *350- 351 (T. Cooley 4th ed. 1899). See 3 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States 1775-85 (1833).

    But the PA Supreme Court has held that vicinage, which is not defined, may be broader than one county.

    Trial by a jury of the vicinage has been viewed as a right belonging to the defendant (not the state) since the 1800's. But in PA, the courts have held the prosecutor has the right to  move for a change of venue, although " the prosecution's request for a change of venue should be much more strictly scrutinized than one by the accused; before the court is moved to act, there should be the most imperative grounds."

    I think the motion should be denied if Sandusky doesn't agree. but who knows what will happen.


    I'm inclined to agree with you, TL (none / 0) (#10)
    by scribe on Thu Feb 02, 2012 at 07:37:13 AM EST
    that this is likely to come down to a battle of presumptions - the defendant's right to a jury from the vicinage versus the strict scrutiny to be applied against the prosecutor's seeking, in effect, a change of venue.

    I also agree that it's likely it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find an unbiased jury anywhere in the entire Commonwealth.  Penn State and Penn State football are just too deeply rooted and pervasive in the culture of the state.

    I have serious doubts that an out-of-state jury could ever be brought in over a defendant's objection.  While courts can and do argue over the meaning of "vicinage" and, in the federal context, "district" (see, e.g., the objections to the M.D. N.C. prosecution of John Edwards for events not occurring in the M.D. N.C.), there is no disputing that "vicinage" does not extend beyond state lines.  Bringing in an out-of-state jury in the face of the Constitutional text would be grounds for an instant reversal.

    By way of analogous example, one cannot subpoena witnesses living/located in State "A" to testify in a case proceeding in the courts of State "B", with a subpoena issued from the State "B" courts.  Tag that witness in State "A" with a State "B" subpoena, and he is perfectly within his rights to tear it up in the proces server's face.  It's a nullity.  To get that person in State "A" to testify in the case in State "B", you have to "domesticate" the subpoena in State "A" by first getting an order from the State "B" court to do so, and an introduction from the "B" Court to the "A" Court (saying, in so many words, you issue a subpoena for us and, when you need us to issue one for you, we will do likewise), then get the "A" court to issue one of its subpoenas with the "B" subpoena attached to it.  Even then, compelling a witness to travel from "A" to "B" for live testimony is quite difficult.

    Imagine how happy someone from, say, New Hampshire would feel about being called for jury duty only to find themselves being shipped off 400 or so miles to a rural Pennsylvania courtroom to hear a case for weeks or months on end, and receiving the minimal compensation jurors get.  (FWIW, I recently heard from a friend that New Jersey recently raised its compensation to jurors to $10/day, from $5.)  No one would get a fair trial in that circumstance.

    No, this is one of those hard cases that will make bad law if pushed too hard.


    Except (none / 0) (#11)
    by jbindc on Thu Feb 02, 2012 at 07:43:35 AM EST
    The prosecutor is only asking for jurors from another county - not another state.

    Yes, Penn State is deep-rooted in all of Pennsylvania, but I would argue that the people in Centre County probably have a more intimate and deep relationship with the university than a juror who is just an alum from, say Clearfield County.


    one of the commenters upthread (none / 0) (#12)
    by scribe on Thu Feb 02, 2012 at 04:27:07 PM EST
    had asked about bringing in jurors from another state, so I felt compelled to lay out why that wouldn't work.

    As to bringing in jurors from out of county, that's where what I called the battle of presumptions comes into play.