Juror: Focus on abuse victims, not Paterno

Gayle Barnes, of State College, PA, was one

Gayle Barnes, of State College, PA, was one of twelve jurors selected for the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse trial. (Credit: Matthew O'Haren)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn Staters from across the country have visited Joe Paterno's on-campus statue, offering opinions on what should become of the larger-than-life bronze sculpture of the football coach involved in one of the biggest sports scandals in history.

But probably none of them has Gayle Barnes' perspective.

The 61-year-old mother of four was known to the world as Juror No. 3 during the sexual-abuse trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Barnes -- a Nittany Lions season-ticket holder since 1978 -- decided to make her own trip to the statue last week.

The debate over whether to remove the Paterno statue began intensifying after a 267-page report released on July 12 by former FBI director Louis Freeh. The findings said Paterno was among top school officials who "repeatedly concealed facts" about Sandusky's abuse of young boys.

A decision about the statue is expected this week.

Paterno died in January. He was fired on Nov. 9, 2011, days after Sandusky was arrested.

"Everyone is talking about Paterno and everybody is talking about the administration and nobody is saying one word anymore about the guy that did it or the poor victims," Barnes said. "My heart absolutely aches after seeing them."

Barnes said the Paterno statue should remain on campus and be affixed with a blue ribbon -- the symbol for victims of sexual abuse.

Listening to the victims testify in court was "terrible," she said. Barnes said she had a panic attack during the trial when she walked through campus and saw the buildings where the abuse took place.

Sandusky is facing sentences tantamount to life in prison after Barnes and 11 others on June 22 found the former assistant coach guilty of 45 of the 48 counts against him. A Centre County Court administrator confirmed that Barnes served on the jury.

"The criminal is behind bars," she said, "but I think people have forgotten about him."

Barnes' visit to the Paterno statue with her husband was her first trip to the popular campus spot since the trial ended June 22. She said she wanted to see the statue "while it was still standing," fearful that vandals might attack it before the university makes a decision.

"Joe did lots and lots of good in State College, he really did," Barnes said. "He probably did things that none of us will ever know or see either, too."

Freeh's independent report was funded by the school and was the result of an eight-month investigation. Barnes downplayed Freeh's findings, calling it, "one man's report."

"I think the Paterno family is doing what they should be doing, investigating the report," she said, referring to the family saying it rejected the findings of the Freeh report and would do its own investigation.

Barnes said she never expected to be picked for the jury because besides being a season-ticket holder, she considers the family of Mike McQueary -- the former Penn State assistant coach who testified that he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in the shower on the school's campus -- to be friends.

After telling the judge and attorneys during jury selection that she considers herself a fair person who believes "there are two sides to every story," Barnes became the third person selected for the jury.

Barnes said if the victims ever felt comfortable stepping foot on campus again, the university should offer them a free education. "I think Penn State owes them that," she said.

Her other take-away from the trial is the need to raise awareness of child sexual abuse. Barnes said she is trying to do her part by talking to others about the dangers.

"The one thing I keep telling everybody -- family, friends, everybody -- is educate your kids," said Barnes, who has two young grandchildren. "If you have kids or grandchildren or friends with kids, just tell everybody you know that they should let the kids know what to do and not to do."

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