Proving Barbara Sheehan Murdered Ex-Cop Husband May Be Uphill Battle
Sep 28, 2011 (WPIX-TV - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
KEW GARDENS, Queens, N.Y. -- Barbara Sheehan admits that she killed her husband, Ray Sheehan, but the question is, did she murder him, or was she acting in self defense? On Wednesday, prosecutors tried to rebut Sheehan's defense with expert testimony. As a legal expert points out, however, the prosecutor faces a challenge to succeed, and Sheehan's many supporters in court say the prosecutor failed.
Assistant District Attorney Debra Pomodore's job is to convince the jury that Barbara Sheehan shot her husband out of spite in reaction to kinky sexual practices that court testimony shows he got her to participate in. For her part, Sheehan has maintained ever since the February 18, 2008 shooting that she was in fear for her life, and that before she shot the man who had beaten, cursed, spat on and otherwise abused her for 25 years, he had pointed another gun at her that he had always kept by his side, and said he would shoot.
"It hurts," Joan Smith, a longtime friend of Barbara Sheehan, said about being in the courtroom as the prosecutor tried to tear down her friend's case. "If you know someone is lying, then you can go after them tooth and nail, but when you know they're not, that's what hurts."
And go after Barbara Sheehan's defense tooth and nail the prosecutor did. However, as James Cohen, a Fordham Law School professor who has himself successfully defended a battered woman murder case, points out, it will be difficult for the prosecutor to prove that a quarter century of testified abuse by Raymond Sheehan was not reason to believe that Barbara Sheehan needed to strike back in order to save her life.
"We're all going to have sympathy with that testimony," Cohen told PIX11 News in an interview, "that the children lived under that threat, that the wife lived under that threat, and finally it snapped."
The prosecution, however, presented a solid witness in police detective Garcia, a computer expert whose testimony indicated that Sheehan had been surfing casually on her computer minutes before she shot and killed her husband.
Sheila Strack, a friend of Barbara Sheehan who's been at court every day of the trial, pointed out that the prosecution expert could not account for every minute of Sheehan's computer activity on the morning of Ray Sheehan's murder.
Strack admits that she was scared to come to court on Wednesday, knowing that her friend's defense would be picked apart. But Sheila Strack's reaction after hearing the prosecution's testimony was upbeat. "I'm excited," Strack told PIX11 News. "The judge asked if (Pomodore) wanted to re-question (the expert). She said 'No.' I thought, 'Oh great!"
Strack said that she was always optimistic that her friend, Barbara Sheehan, would be acquitted for reason of self defense. But now, Strack told PIX11 News, she is not just optimistic, she's confident of that outcome.
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