Battered wife’s murder trial & her state of mind

April 26, 2011
A Court Battle Over a Husband’s Rage and a Wife Who’d Had Enough
By JIM DWYER
Source New York Times
During their son’s freshman year at college, Barbara and Raymond Sheehan had a weekend ritual of driving to Connecticut from Howard Beach, Queens, to watch him play football, take him to dinner and deliver clean laundry. On Feb. 17, 2008, they made the trip, ate a meal, then headed home.

In the car, Mr. Sheehan pounded Ms. Sheehan’s face and broke her nose.

Other than the precise damage on that occasion, this, too, was a ritual in the Sheehan household: Raymond Sheehan, a retired police sergeant, was a man of serial rages and battery, a simmering presence who always had one gun strapped to his ankle and another around his waist. Thus armed, he watched TV or ate breakfast.

He also patronized transvestite hookers, wearing diapers and sucking on pacifiers, then would come home and beat his wife, according to Ms. Sheehan’s lawyer.

The morning after her nose was broken, as Mr. Sheehan, 49, was shaving, Ms. Sheehan, 46, shot him five times with his .38-caliber revolver, which he had left in the bedroom. When it was empty, she picked up his Glock and shot him six more times.

The police arrived to find him dead on the floor of the bathroom, and her waiting on the porch with her sister and a UPS deliveryman. She was charged with second-degree murder.

The case, now more than two years old and still at least months away from trial, returned briefly to State Supreme Court in Queens on Tuesday as a remarkable war was being waged between prosecutors from the office of the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, and the defense lawyer for Ms. Sheehan, Michael G. Dowd. At the moment, she has been barred from presenting testimony from psychiatric experts about long-term abuse, but Richard L. Buchter, a judge who recently took over the case, has agreed to reconsider that decision.

Few important facts appear to be in dispute. Ms. Sheehan shot her husband, as she has told anyone who asks. Mr. Sheehan beat his wife, according to her, their children, extended family, domestic violence counselors and medical records.

The most important question to be resolved by a trial is Ms. Sheehan’s state of mind at the time she killed him.
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