The Queens County judicial system does not protect battered women, an irate lawyer for Barbara Sheehan said last Thursday, after the Howard Beach mother was sentenced to five years in prison on a gun charge after being acquitted of murdering her husband.
The sentence, which also included 2 1/2 years post-release supervision, was handed down by Queens Supreme Court Judge Barry Kron, who could have given her between 2 1/4 to 15 years behind bars.
“I am appalled, but not surprised in Queens,” defense lawyer Michael Dowd said directly to the bench after the sentence was read.
Later on the steps of Queens Criminal Court, at 125-01 Queens Blvd., Dowd said the sentence was indicative of the county’s attitude toward victims of domestic violence.
“I think it is a horrifying message for a battered woman,” he said. “I think if you’re a battered woman, move somewhere else to get help because you’re not going to get it here.”
He was referring to the fact that Kron could have exercised a penal law used for victims of domestic violence to lessen Sheehan’s sentence.
Sheehan shot her husband, retired NYPD cop Raymond Sheehan, 11 times with two guns as he was shaving in the bathroom of their Howard Beach home the morning of Feb. 18, 2008. In what lawyers have called a contradictory verdict, a jury ruled Oct. 6 that she acted in self-defense by shooting him, but also charged her with criminal possession of a weapon for using one of the guns.
She first squeezed off five rounds from a .38-caliber revolver and then shot him a further six times with a 9mm Glock handgun, which she was charged of possessing illegally.
The criminal possession of a weapon charge carries a three- to 15-year sentence, but by employing the legal clause, Kron could have sentenced her to just 2 1/4 to 4 years.
Kron emphasized that he was ruling on one specific case and did not want his sentence to be extrapolated into a broader pronouncement on domestic violence.
He did not convince Dowd, but others in the court did not believe Sheehan was abused at all.
Raymond Sheehan’s twin brother Vincent, who had sat quietly in the courtroom throughout the entire trial, prepared a statement that was read by his wife Linda. In it, she accused Sheehan of hiding behind the cause of battered women and lying about the years of abuse.
“[Sheehan] out and out lied,” she said and later addressed Sheehan directly. “You shot Raymond for your own selfish reasons.”
Linda and Vincent Sheehan could not be reached for comment following the sentencing. Sheehan’s lawyers have vowed to appeal the verdict.
Dowd will appeal on the grounds that the verdict was contradictory and that expert testimony crucial to the case was not heard by the jury and will work with Nathaniel Marmur, a Manhattan lawyer specializing in appeals.
Sheehan is free on bail until the appeal is ruled on, which could take a year or more.
Marmur said the contradictory verdict — Sheehan was convicted of using a weapon unlawfully, but also acquitted on the grounds she used the weapon in self-defense — has been a sticky issue for the state Court of Appeals.
But during the sentencing, Kron read from an appellate ruling that said a jury is allowed to contradict itself, and has previously said he let the verdict stand despite the seeming logical fallacy.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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