Monday, May 24, 2010
© Copyright 2014
Gwinnett Daily Post
PHILADELPHIA -- A 74-year-old man who shot a police officer during a botched burglary in 1966 was acquitted Monday of murder and other charges filed after the officer's death in 2007.
The jury reached its verdict after beginning deliberations late Friday afternoon following the weeklong murder trial of William J. Barnes, who served 16 years for the attempted murder of Officer Walter T. Barclay.
The jury had to determine whether the shooting that left the officer paralyzed from the waist down was the direct cause of his death 41 years later from a urinary tract infection.
When the verdict was announced, Barnes put a hand to his head, covered his eyes and wept. His niece, Diane Barnes, exclaimed ''Yes!'' As the jury left the room, William Barnes said, ''Thank you all so much.''
Barclay's crying sister, Rosalyn Harrison, blurted out an obscenity as she left the courtroom with Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby.
''Get me away from this place,'' she said before being ushered into a police car outside the courthouse.
Defense attorney Samuel Silver said that ruling the cause of death as homicide was a faulty ''rush to judgment'' made without looking at any medical records or conducting an autopsy. He presented medical records suggesting Barclay was further injured in three car accidents and two falls from his wheelchair over the intervening decades and his downward spiral stemmed from abuse by live-in caretakers from 2001 to 2003.
Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron said the injury that Barnes inflicted set in motion an unbroken chain of events that ended in death. He said the officer's illnesses, accidents and falls over the years wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been paralyzed by Barclay's gunshot.
After the verdict, District Attorney Seth Williams reiterated the contention that Barnes, who didn't testify on his own behalf, was responsible for the officer's death.
''The bullet may not have immediately killed him, but it definitely took away his life.''