Battered Wife Barbara Sheehan Loses Appeal, Faces Prison Time
NEW YORK — A battered Queens housewife, who murdered her former NYPD sergeant husband in self-defense and was acquitted of his death, may still have to go to prison after an appeals court upheld her weapons possession conviction, DNAinfo New York has learned.
The state’s Appellate Division ruled to uphold Barbara Sheehan's conviction in Queens Supreme Court on weapons charges — which carry a five-year prison sentence — stemming from the 2008 fatal shooting of her husband, Raymond. Sheehan shot him 11 times with two different guns inside their Howard Beach home.
After a controversial trial, a jury voted to acquit Sheehan of the top murder charge, finding that she acted in self-defense following a lifetime of emotional and physical abuse at his hands.
But they voted to convict her of weapons possession, after finding that she pumped more bullets than necessary into his dying body as he lay on the floor of their home.
Sheehan's lawyer, Michael Dowd, a renowned defender of battered women, had sought an appeals court decision overturning the weapons possession conviction.
He said Wednesday, "We are disappointed with the decision and think it is a real throwback to the days when domestic violence did not matter."
During a sensational trial that followed a high-profile media blitz including an appearance on “Oprah,” Sheehan maintained that she was a victim of battered-wife syndrome, and had endured years of sadistic and horrific mental and physical abuse.
She testified that on the day she killed her husband, the abuse reached a breaking point, and Sheehan felt that she was going to be killed. After she balked at going on vacation with her husband, he threatened her with a small .38-caliber revolver. He had it with him in the bathroom while he shaved.
When he put the weapon down, she grabbed it and opened fire, hitting him several times.
Then, as he lay on the floor, she took his other gun and pumped more bullets into his mortally wounded body.
It was the additional shots that caused the jurors to find her guilty of the weapons charge since he no longer posed a threat, sources said.
Sources said Wednesday's appeals court decision was 3 to 1.
"The majority of the Appellate Division appropriately respected the judgment of the trial court. It was the trial court that saw and heard all of the evidence in the case. It was the trial court that was in the most informed position to balance the equation of what I have often referred to as a tragedy," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement, "The case has now been remitted to the trial court to arrange for Ms. Sheehan’s surrender and the execution of sentence."
Dowd said he would ask the state's Court of Appeals to consider reviewing the original lower-court ruling against Sheehan, which could take a few weeks.
If the Court of Appeals decides not to revisit the case, Sheehan will likely have to begin serving her time.
Barbara met Raymond when she was 17 years old at a reception celebrating his brother’s ordination as a priest at her parish, Our Lady of Grace In Queens.
Their marriage in 1983 quickly devolved into an abusive relationship that led her to use her husband’s police weapons on him, she said. His brutality worsened, she testified, after he was promoted to sergeant and he brought home gruesome crime-scene photos. Then he increased his verbal and physical abuse of her, even pointing his weapon at her and threatening to kill her, she said.
“I have seen so many murders that I could probably shoot you and make it look like a stranger did it,” he said, chuckling, according to her. He threw boiling hot spaghetti sauce at her, scalding her. Some of the brutality was played out in front of her children, who supported her throughout the trial.
During Sheehan's murder trial, lawyers also introduced tales of her husband's sexual deviancy. There were a number of lurid revelations about his taste for kinky sex and his penchant for cross-dressing.
Sheehan, a mother of two grown children, has been living with her son. It is unclear when she would have to begin to serve her sentence.