Bx Judge Acquits Police Sgt. of Murder


A police officer charged with murdering a schizophrenic woman in the bedroom of her apartment in the Bronx in Oct. 2016, was acquitted Thursday of all charges by a judge in a highly disputed bench trial.

Sgt. Hugh Barry’s decision to leave the verdict to the judge rather a jury, has paid off.

Judge Robert A. Neary said he based his decision on the sergeant’s right to self-defense, and the prosecution didn’t reach the level of beyond reasonable doubt to prove that Barry’s use of deadly force was unjustified.

The family’s lawyer Ricardo Aguirre speaking to reporters outside the courthouse deplored the judge’s decision. “This is a travesty for the mental health community and those mental health patients and their families,” said Aguirre. “Deborah Danner wasn’t hitting nobody; Deborah Danner was loud and cursing.”

The trial, which raised questions about the training of police to deal with mentally ill people, also had a racial undercurrent. Barry, a white police officer, arrived at the apartment in the Bronx, after security had called about Danner, an elderly black woman, who was screaming in the hallway.

“This is again a situation where we try not to say that color was involved, race was involved. It is,” said Aguirre. “Had Deborah Danner been a white 66-year-old, 233-pounds woman on Park Avenue, she would be alive today.”  according to Aguirre, the family is mounting a civil trial against Barry.

During the trial, the prosecution tried to show that Barry did not follow proper protocol in dealing with an emotionally disturbed person and that the officer was too quick to use deadly force instead of taking time to better assess the situation and try to subdue the elderly woman.

Taking the stand on Tuesday, Barry contended that the elderly woman was too quick for him. “The last thing I want was for her to go into the room and get the scissors,” he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill condemned the shooting after it occurred, arguing that Sergeant Barry didn’t follow protocol.

Barry’s supporters fumed at the officials’ comments, arguing that political pressure forced the trial;  The sergeant’s ordeal is likely not over as he was likely to face a departmental trial, that could end in his dismissal.

Also speaking to journalists outside the courtroom, the 9-year police veteran’s lawyer Andrew Quinn criticized de Blasio and O’Neil for their statements calling them “a rush to judgement”.

Bronx DA Darcel Clark, who made the iffy decision to mount the prosecution, said she was disappointed by the verdict but accepted the judge’s decision.

Photo of lawyer Ricardo Aguirre by Alain Gaillard


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