After only one night of deliberation, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary acquitted Sergeant Hugh Barry, 32, of the three criminal charges he faced in the shooting death of 66-year-old Deborah Danner.
Sergeant Barry had forgone his right to trial by jury to have the case heard by a judge.
On Thursday, February 15, Justice Neary decided the evidence did not support the burden of proof needed to convict Barry for manslaughter, murder, and criminally negligent homicide.
The burden of proof needed was to verify whether Barry’s use of deadly force was justified, according to Justice Neary during the trial.
While Barry’s supporters and certainly Barry himself were pleased with the final verdict, the family and friends of Deborah Danner don’t believe justice was served.
“We’re going to address the fact that NYPD and the city of New York had failed this community,” said the Danner family’s lawyer and spokesperson Ricardo Aguirre after the verdict was announced.
On Tuesday, October 18, 2016, around 6 p.m. police responded to a 911 call at Danner’s residence on 930 Pugsley Avenue of an emotionally disturbed woman acting erratically.
When Sergeant Barry and fellow officers arrived to Danner’s 7th floor apartment, the 66-year-old was in possession of a pair of scissors which she threatened them with, according to NYPD reports.
At one point Barry was able to convince Danner to put the scissors down.
Danner had a history of mental health issues being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in her 20s, even publishing a book on her condition in 2012.
Danner then picked up a baseball bat from under a pillow in her bedroom and motioned she would swing at them by crouching into a batter’s stance, according to a demonstration by Andrew Quinn, Barry’s attorney, that he presented in the court room.
Barry, believing he was in imminent danger, then shot Danner twice in her torso in her apartment bedroom.
It wasn’t the first time police had been called to the senior’s apartment while she was having a schizophrenic episode.
Danner’s neighbors claimed that they had had numerous run ins with her over the years.
“We are disappointed but we accept his decision,” said District Attorney Darcel Clark in a statement on the not guilty verdict.
“The death of Deborah Danner illustrates the larger issues of how we need changes in the way we address people with mental health,” Clark continued.
Danner’s family and supporters still question why Barry, who was armed with a taser, needed to use deadly force after already de-escalating the situation with the scissors just moments earlier.
“He was really put in an impossible situation,” said Quinn outside the courthouse after the verdict was handed down. “He doesn’t forget by any means that Danner lost her life, but he’s relieved he’s not looking at a prison sentence.”
Barry’s supporters are now calling on police commsioner James O’Neill to reinstate him.
“He was wronged all along,” said president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, outside the courthouse after the verdict.
“The commissioner owes him an apology, the mayor owes him an apology, and so does the district attorney,” he continued
After the 2016 incident, many, including Commissioner O’Neill, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr quickly condemned Barry’s actions.
Commissioner O’Neill stripped Barry of his badge and gun and suspended him.
“We failed,” said O’Neill in 2016.
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