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The women selected as jurors in the upcoming Penn State sex abuse trial could prove to be the defendant’s harshest critics.At last count four women, at least two of them mothers, are sitting on former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s jury.
Women tend to judge defendants in child sex abuse cases more severely than men do, particularly mothers, jury expert Suzanne Mannes told Business Insider.
“Mothers of children are very protective,” she said.
The young people on the jury could also be tough on both sides, she said.
Students are taught to think critically, which means they’re more apt to spot holes in the evidence, according to Mannes.
“I think it’s a skill that we maybe, kind of, not necessarily lose, but don’t pay as much attention to as we get older,” she said, adding that younger people are “big on questioning.”
Twelve jurors and one alternate, most with close ties to Penn State, have been chosen for the Jerry Sandusky trial.
But the potential biases of a State College jury aren’t as worrisome as they seem.
“Because you can’t get rid of people’s biases, you can make them aware of the potential for bias,” Mannes said.
Changing a trial venue is a costly manoeuvre, and arguably, Sandusky wouldn’t get his Constitutional right to a trial by his peers if the proceedings were moved to a different town, she said.
Plus, even if people don’t have connections to the school, they more than likely already know about the case.
“I don’t know where you could move it where there wouldn’t be people who knew everything about it anyway,” said Mannes, an assistant professor of psychology at Widener University.
Thankfully, Judge John Cleland has proven adept at screening for biases, asking potential jurors if they thought they could be fair despite their biases, she said.
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