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A Queens Supreme Court jury was sent Tuesday to deliberate the fate of Barbara Sheehan, the Howard Beach wife who contends she killed her abusive husband in self-defense while prosecutors maintain she executed him in cold blood.
Manhattan-based lawyer Michael Dowd portrayed the mother of two and school secretary, who faces 25 years to life in prison on charges of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon, as a battered woman who lived in constant fear of her husband, ex-NYPD Detective Raymond Sheehan.
“He committed acts that were in fact evil and wicked,” Dowd said, also referring to Sheehan’s husband as “depraved” and “a madman” throughout his nearly two-hour closing statement Monday which included specific stories from the Sheehan family cataloging the patriarch’s erratic, violent behavior.
Dowd spent so much time on the character of Sheehan’s husband that at one point Queens Supreme Court Judge Barry Kron interrupted.
“The person on trial is not Raymond Sheehan, it is Barbara Sheehan,” he said.
The fact that Sheehan killed her husband is not in dispute, but Dowd’s argument was that she acted in self-defense when she used a .38-caliber revolver and Glock 9 mm handgun to shoot Raymond Sheehan a total of 11 times while he was shaving in the bathroom Feb. 18, 2008.
Queens Assistant District Attorney Debra Pomodore told the jury Sheehan was not justified in using deadly force against her husband, and killed him not out of fear but because she hated him and wanted out of their marriage.
“Barbara Sheehan made a conscious decision she was going to end that marriage not by divorce,” Pomodore said. “She was going to end that marriage with the muzzle of a gun.”
As Sheehan tells it, the years of abuse at the hands of her husband, and the fact he had pointed a gun at her head on that February morning, led her to believe that he was in fact going to carry out the threat she had heard over and over throughout their nearly 20 years of marriage, according to Dowd.
“Barbara Sheehan is the world’s best expert on when things were really life-threatening and dangerous because she’s seen it for 17 years,” Dowd said.
But Pomodore sought to distance the case from the cause of battered women, which had brought out many supporters and activists who were clad in purple clothes and wore purple ribbons, symbolizing solidarity with abused women.
“This case is not a referendum on how you feel about domestic violence,” Pomodore said, adding that Sheehan was in fact a formidable woman who constantly stood up for herself and had attempted to latch herself onto a cause to curry favor with the jury.
She also referred to Sheehan’s tear-filled testimony of the week before when she was asked to re-enact the shooting as “scripted,” a word she suggested also applied to the testimony of Sheehan’s two children, who testified to the despotism of their late father.
Using ballistics evidence provided by NYPD officers, Pomodore claimed that Sheehan ambushed her unarmed husband out of hatred for his infidelities and bizarre sexual tastes and had discussed divorcing her husband months before.
Pomodore contended Sheehan shot her husband five times with the revolver, then ran downstairs to get the semi-automatic Glock to finish him off.
Sheehan said otherwise.
“She just made up stuff and lied,” Sheehan said after closing arguments as she walked to her car. “I hope the jury sees that, too.”
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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