NBC 4 New York
Barbara Sheehan was cleared of murder when a jury believed her claim that she shot and killed her husband, an NYPD sergeant, in self defense. But she is now beginning a five-year prison sentence on a gun charge stemming from that shooting, which her lawyer says is an injustice. Lori Bordonaro reports.
A school secretary who was acquitted of murder after shooting her husband 11 times but convicted on a weapons charge has reported to prison for a five-year term.
Barbara Sheehan, who was sentenced in 2011, begins serving the sentence Friday.
"I didn't do anything, I defended myself in my own house," she said on her way in to court Friday.
The 52-year-old mother of two had said she shot in self-defense after her husband of 24 years, retired NYPD Sgt. Raymond Sheehan, threatened to kill her if she didn't go with him on a Florida vacation. After decades of marriage to a violent and abusive man, her attorney argued, she was enough of an expert on his terrifying behavior to know he was serious.
She grabbed his loaded revolver from the bedroom while he was in the bathroom shaving, a loaded Glock by his side on the vanity. She emptied the revolver, then picked up the Glock and fired six shots. Raymond Sheehan died in the bathroom.
Attorney Niall MacGiollabhui said Friday that he is asking the court of appeals to overturn the conviction or reduce her sentence.
"We certainly think that she shouldn't be going to jail," he said.
Jurors, nine women and three men, found the wife guilty of a weapons charge for using the Glock. She was found not guilty of a second weapon charge for using the revolver.
The case became a referendum on so-called battered women's syndrome and whether such a woman would be capable of getting out of a nasty relationship.
In weeping, fraught testimony, Sheehan told of her years of abuse, testifying she was too fearful and broken-down to leave him and was too scared to call for help. Her grown children also gave emotional testimony on their home life, saying they walked on eggshells around their father, always worried about when he would crack and take out his anger on their mother. Sgt. Raymond Sheehan was portrayed as a violent, unpredictable man who carried two loaded guns — one on his hip and one on his ankle — at all times.
Prosecutors painted a different picture of the family. They said Barbara Sheehan was a manipulator and a liar, a pampered woman upset that her husband had strayed and their marriage was crumbling.
Central to the prosecution's argument was the idea that if Sheehan was abused, she should've called for help but never did. And there would have been some type of tangential proof — photos or scars.