Though Barbara Sheehan was sentenced to five years in prison last week after being acquitted of murdering her husband but found guilty on a weapons charge, her attorney is fighting to make sure the Howard Beach mother never sees the inside of a cell again.
“I am appalled,” Sheehan’s attorney, Michael Dowd, said after Queens Supreme Court Judge Barry Kron sentenced the 50-year-old woman to five years in prison, followed by two and a half years of post-release supervision. “But I’m not surprised in Queens County.”
Last month, a jury found Sheehan not guilty of murdering her ex-cop husband, Raymond Sheehan, after she shot him 11 times in what she said was self-defense on Feb. 18, 2008 in their Howard Beach home.
The incident occurred after, Sheehan said, her husband had pointed a gun at her and told her he was going to kill her that day, and followed nearly two decades of alleged physical and emotional abuse. According to Sheehan, her husband would routinely threaten to kill her and smashed her head against a cinder block wall while they were on vacation, punched her in the face and threw boiling spaghetti sauce on her. Her children, Jennifer, 25, and Raymond, 21, testified during the trial about the abuse and said they heard their father threaten to kill their mother on a weekly basis for most of their lives.
Sheehan first shot her husband five times with a revolver and another six times with a semi-automatic. She was found guilty of using the .9mm pistol, which carried with it a minimum sentence of three and a half years and a maximum of 15 years.
“I’m sorry for what this has done to my family,” Sheehan said in court.
Dowd is appealing the conviction, and Sheehan is free pending the appeal, which the attorney said “we expect to win.”
As one of the appeal’s main arguments, Dowd said the court should have allowed expert testimony from a psychiatrist who would have argued to jurors that it was the nearly two decades of abuse that had caused her to shoot 11 times
Sheehan’s attorney said the five-year sentence sent a “horrifying message for battered women.”
“What did Raymond Sheehan get away with for 17 years?” Dowd said outside the courthouse on Thursday. “He spit on her, he punched her, he put a gun in her mouth. It is appalling that conduct gets sanctioned.”
Kron said his sentencing was in no way a comment on the larger societal issue of domestic violence.
“I’m not going to second guess the jury verdict,” Kron said before he announced the sentence. “Raymond Sheehan was not the person on trial.”
The judge added that he was “confident this will be Barbara Sheehan’s only lifetime contact with the criminal justice system.”
Kron also noted he had received about 80 letters from family members and friends in support of Sheehan.
“I read every one, and they were very heartfelt,” Kron said.
Before the judge delivered the sentence, Linda Sheehan, the wife of Raymond Sheehan’s twin brother, Vincent, read a victim’s impact statement in court.
“You’ve devastated many people,” Linda Sheehan said. “You’ve ruined a family of brothers … Do you know how we celebrate Christmas now? Instead of a traditional Christmas dinner, we visit Raymond at the cemetery.”
Also prior to the judge’s sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Debra Pomodore, who prosecuted the case, called on the judge to remember Raymond Sheehan.
“A man in the prime of his life was gunned down and left to die on the bathroom floor,” Pomodore said.
District Attorney Richard Brown called the sentence “appropriate and commensurate with the seriousness of the offense.
“The facts underlying this conviction are uncontroverted,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “Barbara Sheehan fired a .9mm handgun at her husband … inside their bathroom six separate times as he lay on the floor unarmed and wounded from five earlier gunshot wounds. Her criminal conduct can only be viewed as excessive and unwarranted.”
In his pre-sentencing statement, Dowd spoke about the impact the domestic violence had on Sheehan’s children.
“Her son would go into the basement of his house, bringing a knife with him, and contemplated taking his own life because he couldn’t stand what his father was doing to his mother,” Dowd said. “Her daughter got down to 75 pounds because of anorexia. She said the one thing she could control in her life was her weight.
“Time and again, Mrs. Sheehan put herself between her children and her husband and was beaten over and over and over again because of that,” Dowd continued.