After dodging a murder conviction for the death of her husband, Barbara Sheehan has been sentenced to five years behind bars on a second degree weapons charge related to the case.
Sheehan, who faced up to 15 years in prison prior to her sentencing, was acquitted of murder after a jury determined she acted in self-defense when she shot her husband, Raymond, a retired NYPD sergeant, 11 times on the morning of February 18, 2008. The Howard Beach resident and mother of two was also sentenced to two-and-a-half years of post-release supervision.
During the trial, Sheehan, 50, testified that she was a victim of domestic abuse for nearly 20 years, which her attorney, Niall MacGiollabhui, says should have been taken into consideration in her sentence.
“Mr. [Michael] Dowd [her attorney], Barbara and I are all disappointed with the sentence,” said MacGiollabhui. “The main reason we are disappointed is that there is a penal law which allows for a reduced sentence if the judge finds that the defendant is a victim of domestic violence and that violence was a factor in the crime that was committed. That finding is meant to be made during a hearing, which is held prior to sentencing. The judge in this case refused to have a hearing, and then he said that he found Barbara was a victim of domestic violence and that it was a factor in the crime, but that he would give her no credit because of it.”
MacGiollabhui also deems the judge’s decision to be unfair due to his belief that the killing of Barbara’s husband was taken into account during sentencing, despite her acquittal of murder.
“The judge basically said that [Barbara] could have simply left that day, which goes to one of the great myths of domestic violence, which is that the woman is free to leave,” said the attorney.
Sheehan’s bail was recently reinstated, allowing her to return home while she awaited sentencing. Her bail is expected to continue pending an appeal, which MacGiollabhui says should be filed early in the new year.
“Our opinion is that the jury’s verdict is inconsistent as a matter of law,” he said. “If you act in self-defense, then that is not unlawful. It is lawful to use a weapon in self-defense even if it is not licensed to you because your intention is not to use it unlawfully, but in self-defense.”
MacGiollabhui also said that “the manner in which [Barbara] was sentenced and the sentence she received will both be part of the appeal.”