Could You Be Impartial?

The Herculean task of finding 12 men and/or women to sit on Jerry Sandusky’s jury is underway at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte. The former Penn State football Defensive Coordinator is charged with more than 50 counts connected to the alleged molestations of at least 10 young boys over a 15 year period.

The trial is playing out in Centre County, home to Penn State University and The Second Mile, the charity founded by Sandusky more than 30 years ago. Prosecutors allege that Sandusky used the charity to prey on vulnerable at-risk boys.

Questions about whether or not an impartial jury can be found in Centre County have been floating around since the charges were revealed last November. The lawyers on both sides will face unique challenges in this case, as they try to weed through the list of potential jurors for a trial that is expected to take several weeks.

Robert Power, a law professor at Widener University in Dauphin County says he believes the court can find 12 impartial jurors, but that the process could take some time, certainly longer than in a typical case where voir dire can take as little as an hour or two. Power says even potential jurors with no ties to the university or any other aspects of the case may have formed opinions about it based on more than 6 months of intense media coverage.

The court has set aside this entire week for selection of a jury and the alternates. Testimony is not expected to begin before Monday, June 11th.



Rulings Issued Ahead of Sandusky Trial

The judge has issued several rulings ahead of the start of jury selection June 5th in the Jerry Sandusky trial.

The media will not be allowed to tweet, blog or communicate electronically from the courtroom during the child sexual abuse trial of the former Penn State assistance football coach. Judge John Cleland  reversed part of an earlier Decorum Order that would have allowed reporters to tweet during the trial.

The judge has also denied requests from alleged victims 3,4,5 and 7 to keep their identities concealed during the trial.  In his ruling, the judge said that there is no support in Pennsylvania law for offering anonymity to an adult witness because the witness is one of a class of victims of a particular crime.

Judge Cleland is denying a request by Sandusky’s lawyer to order prosecutors to turn over information they collected about potential jurors.

Later in the day, the state Supreme Court denied a request to delay the trial. Sandusky’s attorneys had turned to the state’s highest court after the judge and a state Superior Court panel also rejected the motion to delay.

Governor Tom Corbett: “I was not the driving force behind the firing of Joe Paterno”

Last month, ESPN the Magazine published a scathing article critical of Governor Tom Corbett’s role in the firing of the late Joe Paterno last November. The iconic Penn State Head Coach was dismissed by the Penn State Board of Trustees, of which Governor Corbett is an ex-officio member, in the immediate aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.

Appearing on Radio PA’s “Ask the Governor” program Thursday, Governor Corbett made his most extensive comments on the article to date, calling it “sloppy journalism” and disputing several points, including a claim by ESPN that he refused numerous requests to respond to the article. Corbett says the magazine contacted his office on the eve of his European trade mission, but that he would have been happy to speak with them upon his return.

The ESPN article portrays Corbett the driving force behind the firing of Joe Paterno, a claim he flatly denies. Corbett told Radio PA that he played a minor role in the conference call the evening the decision was made to fire Paterno, primarily reminding the trustees to “remember the children.”

Newly-elected Penn State Board of Trustees member Anthony Lubrano has been critical of the governor based on the information in the ESPN article. He told WITF radio this week that he did believe the governor played a significant role in the dismissal of Paterno. Lubrano was elected to the 32-member board on a platform largely based on alumni outrage over the handling of Joe Paterno in the days after the Sandusky scandal rocked the university.

Governor Corbett says he plans to meet with Lubrano and other board members to further discuss the issue and he believes Lubrano’s opinion will change based on those talks.



Jerry Sandusky Pre-Trial Hearing Today

    The key principles in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case are gathering in Centre County today for a pre-trial hearing on a variety of issues, including a defense request to dismiss all charges against the former Penn State assistant coach.

    With the trial still two months away, more than 100 journalists have gathered at the Centre County Courthouse for today’s hearing. Jerry Sandusky is expected to be in the courtroom for the proceeding. Some of the key disputes to be discussed today include how much information the state will have to turn over to the defense in advance of the trial and what evidence will be admitted in the case.

    Sandusky is charged with more than 50 counts of child sexual abuse against at least 10 young boys over more than a decade. He is currently under house arrest and awaiting his trial in June.

Governor Tom Corbett Proposes $27.139 Billion Budget

    Governor Tom Corbett has unveiled his budget proposal for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The $27.1 billion spending plan comes in $10 million under the current year’s actual budget and represents what the governor calls a realistic budget in difficult times.

    Prior to the Governor’s speech to a joint session of the General Assembly, state Budget Secretary Charles Zogby reported that the projected revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year is up to $719 million, putting more pressure on the governor and lawmakers who will have to craft the next budget.

    While basic education would see a slight increase in its General Fund subsidy, it would all but hold the line from last year’s overall number. The governor took the opportunity during his address to chastise political opponents, saying they misrepresented his education budget last year. The governor says he raised basic ed funding, but the evaporation of federal stimulus dollars results in an overall decrease in spending.

    Governor Corbett is proposing more deep cuts to higher education, which last year was slashed by about 20%. This year, the 14 state-owned universities would see their state funding slashed by another 20% under the governor’s plan. Meanwhile, three of the four state-related universities – Penn State, PITT and Temple – would average 30% cuts. Lincoln University would receive the same funding level as last year. Governor Corbett also announced the formation of a special panel to examine the way higher education is funded in Pennsylvania. He has appointed former state Senator Rob Wonderling to head that committee and report back in November.

    Next up in the state budget process: weeks of budget hearings in Harrisburg, then lawmakers will try to iron out a final spending plan that will be brought to the floors of the House and Senate by June 30th.


Joe Paterno Funeral Today

    There will be another 4 hours of visitation today, giving fans and mourners a chance to pass by Joe Paterno’s coffin in State College. On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people filed past the closed casket, paying their respects to the man who gave 61 years of his life to Penn State University. The wait in line was up to two hours at some points.

    A private family funeral will follow today’s visitation. The funeral procession will then pass through State College, taking the longtime coach to his final resting place.

    Tomorrow, thousands will pack the Bryce Jordan Center, adjacent to Beaver Stadium, for “A Memorial for Joe,” Penn State’s public tribute. Free tickets for the event were snatched up in just minutes on Tuesday. Some fans who were in line for Tuesday’s viewing said they believe the tickets were all claimed in about 40 seconds, based on their attempts to acquire them online. Sadly, within hours Tuesday there were attempts by some to sell the tickets on eBay, but that website’s policy against selling free tickets to an event resulted in those auctions being pulled from the site.

    Thursday’s public memorial service is scheduled to begin at 2:00pm. Doors open at 1:00pm. Shuttle buses will be operating between the Bryce Jordan Center and the Nittany Lion Inn, as well as the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel from 12:00pm until 2 hours after the conclusion of the memorial service. Parking will also be available in the Stadium West Commuter Parking Lot, East Deck on Bigler Road and Innovation Park.



Christman Blog – Joe Paterno: Legend, Icon…Human

    It was November 9th, 2011 and the Penn State Board of Trustees had just announced the firing of Joe Paterno. My first thoughts were not of the countless Saturdays I spent watching JoePa prowl the sidelines, or of the 409 wins that will probably stand as a Division I record forever. These were ingrained and cherished memories I would later relive, but first the journalist in me began began analyzing where the Jerry Sandusky scandal would fit in to this legendary icon’s eventual obituary.

    Sadly, today we have our answer to that question, and it has come far too soon. Just 74 days after his dismissal, Joe Paterno passed away at the Mount Nittany Medical Center on Sunday morning. The official cause of death was complications from lung cancer, but as everyone in Penn State country knows, it may very well have been a broken heart that ended the coach’s life.

    Upon his death, almost immediately the internet comment boards accompanying each Paterno obituary lit up with arguments over what manner of man Paterno was. Was he the iconic legend known to the world for most of his 61 incredible years at Penn State? Was he a man who should first be remembered for perhaps looking the other way as the Sandusky allegations quietly swirled in the State College winds for years? To be fair, Paterno met his legal obligations according to state prosecutors handling the Sandusky case. Paterno was never a target of the investigation and he cooperated fully with the grand jury. However, it was only days after the release of the first grand jury presentment against Sandusky that questions were being asked. What did Joe know? When did he know it? Why didn’t he follow up with police after reporting an alleged 2002 shower incident to his Athletic Director? They were complicated questions, and even today it’s difficult to know if there is enough information to accurately answer them.

    But the great debate has clouded what should be a day to remember all of the good Joe Paterno contributed to his school and the community he loved so dearly. Should the obituary ignore the Sandusky matter that led to Paterno’s firing? Absolutely not. Should it be the lead in the story? Again, absolutely not.

    Only history will tell us how JoePa will be remembered, and there is much of the Jerry Sandusky story yet to be told. It will be many months before Sandusky gets his day in court, and the testimony and eventual outcome of that trial will be a large chapter in the life of Joe Paterno as well.

    For today, though, this Penn State fan is taking the time to remember those countless Saturdays, the 409 wins, the black sneakers, the thick glasses and the rolled up pants. I’m also remembering the millions of dollars Joe Paterno and wife Sue have donated to their school and community. I’m remembering all the high school football players who entered Joe Paterno’s program as boys and left as men. And, I’m remembering that while Joe Paterno was an icon, and a legend, he was also a man. No human being is perfect, and we all leave this plane of existence with regrets. JoePa was no different.


Joseph Vincent Paterno: 1926-2012

    He spent 61 years serving the university he loved, and today millions of fans are mourning the death of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

    “JoePa” spent 46 of his years at Penn State as Head Coach, guiding his teams to five undefeated seasons and two national championships in 1982 and 1986. His 409 wins is a Division I record that may never be broken. He was a modern day throwback to another era of football, often sharing with reporters stories of Vince Lombardi and other names from the sport’s great past. His black sneakers, rolled up pantlegs, white socks and trademark glasses were part of Penn State Saturdays for decades. His “Grand Experiment” focused on making sure his players were student athletes, and the graduation rates reflected that philosophy.

    Paterno is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and according to the university, he donated more than $5 million to the school, including the library that bears his name along with wife Sue Paterno. He contributed more than $1 million to the Mount Nittany Medical Center, where he passed away this morning.

    Paterno was fired from his longtime position on November 9th following the scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. While Paterno was never a target in the criminal probe, many questioned his failure to do more than simply report the allegations to his Athletic Director, Tim Curley. According to a grand jury presentment, Paterno was made aware of an alleged 2002 incident involving Sandusky in a football facility shower. Curley and another university administrator were charged with failure to report that case to authorities.

    While Paterno had tended to his legal obligations according to state prosecutors, many said he had a higher moral responsibility to follow up on the case with police. Among them, the Penn State University Board of Trustees, who dismissed Paterno 74 days ago. Shortly thereafter, it was announced the coach was undergoing treatment for a “treatable” form of lung cancer. He was admitted to Mount Nittany Medical Center nine days ago with complications, and passed away at 9:25am Sunday morning. The previous evening, his family had gathered at his bedside for their final goodbyes, even as some media outlets were prematurely reporting Paterno’s death.

    Joe Paterno was 85 years old.