Trials & Litigation

Attorney Michael Dowd Wins Another Murder Case With Battered-Woman Defense

  • Print.

Updated: In what could be his last such trial, a New York lawyer known for his defense of women who kill their spouses has won another victory in a tough case.

Barbara Sheehan admittedly fired 11 bullets at her husband from two guns in February 2008, inside their New York City home. But a Queens Supreme Court jury that had at one point seemed deadlocked today acquitted her of second-degree murder, apparently convinced by the battered-spouse defense presented by attorney Michael Dowd, according to the New York Times (reg. req.).

She was found guilty of one gun-possession charge and acquitted on a second gun-possession charge.

“There is no joy today,” Dowd said outside the courtroom after the verdict was announced. “The only thing that can bring joy to this family would be to bring them back 17 years before the first blow was struck.”

The New York Times (reg. req.) subsequently weighed in with a news analysis, saying that the government would have been wise to have plea-bargained the case rather than taking a hard-line approach in a case in which the defendant had been physically and emotionally battered for years.

“Within a month of her arrest, I met with the prosecutors to see if we could work out a plea, and they wanted her to do 10 years out of the box,” Dowd told the Times. “And during the trial, I asked if there was any chance that we could work this out with a rational plea. The answer was no.”

After the verdict, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown noted that Sheehan faces a minimum sentence of three and a half years on the gun-possession charge and said abused women can’t be allowed to take the law into their own hands.

Additional coverage: “Lawyer Says His Experience as an Extortion Victim Helps Him Defend Battered Women Who Kill”

New York Post: “Queens woman found not guilty of murdering her ‘abusive’ ex-cop husband”

Updated on Oct. 7 to include information from subsequent New York Times article.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.