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Sheehan lawyers eye reprieve in state’s court of last resort

Barbara Sheehan (c.) walks with supporters and journalists after her sentencing.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Lawyers for the Howard Beach woman who fatally shot her abusive ex-NYPD husband in 2008 are hoping to appeal to the state’s highest court after she began serving a five-year sentence on a gun charge last month.

Barbara Sheehan was shackled and whisked away by officers in a Queens Supreme courthouse June 21 in front of distraught family members who had supported her throughout her 2011 trial and subsequent sentencing.

“Everybody is waiting to see what happens,” said Niall MacGiollabhui, a lawyer representing Sheehan.

The mother of two shot her husband Raymond Sheehan 11 times with two different guns while he was shaving in the bathroom Feb. 18, 2008.

The former school secretary and her lawyers contended Sheehan squeezed off the rounds to put an end to nearly two decades of abuse and a jury agreed, acquitting her of murder charges but convicting her of criminal possession of a weapon.

Justice Barry Kron, who oversaw the trial, handed down the five-year sentence in November 2011, which Sheehan’s legal team appealed to an intermediate appellate court.

They were not successful, but hope to take their case one level higher to the New York State Court of Appeals, which may decide whether the case can move forward this summer.

MacGiollabhui and a team of attorneys plan to argue that Kron handed down too harsh a sentence by erroneously taking into account the murder charge Sheehan was acquitted of.

The justice could have given Sheehan a sentence below the minimum 3 1/2 years by invoking leniency for victims of domestic violence, but instead gave her five years, the lawyer said. If successful, her sentence could be reduced.

In addition, the team is appealing on the grounds that an expert witness was barred from testifying during the 2011 trial by another judge.

If that appeal goes through, her entire sentence could be thrown out, MacGiollabhui said.

Sheehan had been joined in the courtroom by a large contingent of friends, family and purple-clad supporters of battered women throughout her ordeal and who were outraged at Kron’s decision to send her away.

“I think it is a horrifying message for battered women,” Michael Dowd, another of Sheehan’s attorneys, said following the ruling.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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