In Defense of Barbara Sheehan: When a Battered Woman Kills

In Defense of Barbara Sheehan: When a Battered Woman Kills

by Author Rosaura Torres on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 9:34pm

On February 18, 2008, Barbara Sheehan knew her husband was going to kill her – not just some day, but that day. Throughout their 23-year marriage he had continually threatened to kill her, then her two children, and then to “go out in a blaze of glory.” And he had also regularly beaten, punched, slapped, kicked, tackled, pinched, spat on and thrown things at her, including a full pot of simmering pasta sauce. Over those years she’d suffered broken bones, black eyes, a broken nose and uncounted other bloody injuries.

But that day in February the beatings would finally end. That morning when her husband, retired NYPD Sgt. Raymond Sheehan, pointed the gun at her face and said, “I will fucking kill you,” for the first time in her life Barbara too held a gun. And moments later Raymond Sheehan lay dead on the blood-soaked bathroom floor of their Howard Beach home.

Today, 2½ years later, Barbara Sheehan is on trial in the Queens criminal courthouse, charged with second degree murder in her husband’s death. And the issue of police domestic violence – law enforcement officers’ battering of their intimate partners – breaks out of the silence and into the national consciousness.

Purple Berets’ Tanya Brannan is in that courtroom, covering the trial as a part of our national focus “When the Batterer Is a Cop.” For the next two weeks we will be your eyes and ears in the courtroom in the most important domestic violence trial of the day.

For our reports on this critically important case, go to