Barbara Sheehan seeks clemency, sticking to self-defense argument

Barbara Sheehan
Photo courtesy of NYSPAC

Six months ago Barbara Sheehan began her five-year sentence after shooting and killing her husband. Today, she is seeking an exception to her prison stay, and wants to serve her time for weapons possession at home.

The 52-year-old Howard Beach resident fatally shot her husband, retired NYPD Sergeant Raymond Sheehan, 11 times with two different guns in February 2008. She said she suffered nearly two decades of abuse at her husband’s hands and he would have killed her had she not pulled the trigger.

“When you’re in a domestic violence situation, it’s not as black and white as it appears to be,” Sheehan told The Courier. “Just looking at his face, his eyes told me this was it. He was getting up and he was going to kill me.”

A prison support group created an online petition to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to grant Sheehan clemency. So far, about 2,000 people have signed and pledged their support.

Sheehan was acquitted of murder but charged with weapons possession for the second gun she used that day. She is currently serving her sentence at the Albion Correctional Facility in upstate New York.

The former school secretary was charged because when she shot with the second firearm, her husband no longer posed a threat. However, she said he didn’t die after shots from the first gun.

“He was still trying to come after me,” she said.

After starting her time last summer, she reached out to the New York State Prisoner Assistance Center (PAC) to address an “administrative issue” in the prison, said PAC Executive Director Mario Vredenburg. He then started to look into Sheehan’s case and is helping her apply for executive clemency.

If the order is granted, Sheehan will be able to serve the remainder of her sentence from home. The toughest part about prison, she said, is being far from her family and two children.

Vredenburg said prisoners can apply for clemency in exceptional circumstances, namely if something was legally wrong with the conviction. He said there was no criminal intent when Sheehan used the two guns, they were not her guns to begin with and Sheehan’s life was “in imminent danger.”

Additionally, Sheehan said the jury was “forbidden” to hear her psychiatrist’s testimony, who would have detailed her “state of mind” at the time of the shooting.

“I was not able to defend myself properly,” she said.

The PAC will file on Sheehan’s behalf with the governor’s office in March.

“We’re not asking for the governor to say it was legal for her to use that gun. We’re asking him to forgive her conviction,” Vredenburg said.

To see the petition and read more, click here.


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