Important evidence was excluded from a trial in which a jury decided not to convict Barbara Sheehan of murder had no doubt about who’d killed Raymond Sheehan, a retired New York police sergeant, in 2008, commentator Tanya Brannan writes on Women’s eNews. Sheehan said she had endured two decades of sadistic violence and abuse at the hands of her husband.
Judge Barry Kron imposed crucial limits on how much Jacquelyn Campbell, a researcher from Johns Hopkins University, could say. Campbell’s studies of domestic violence homicide led her to create the pre-eminent danger-lethality assessment for women in battering situations. She wasn’t allowed to assess Sheehan, or even to enumerate the factors that would indicate a situation that was likely to end in homicide. Instead, she could only present generic testimony on the cycle of violence and the concept of “learned helplessness,” which leads women whose every attempt at escape has been thwarted begin to believe that escape is impossible. Excluded was testimony that of the 20 or so indicators of lethality in a battering relationship, nearly all were present in Barbara Sheehan’s situation in the year preceding the shooting.