Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Longest Murder:
Can it take 41 years to die from a gunshot?

On a winter night in 1966, 23-year-old rookie cop Walter Barclay (pictured at left) was shot several times as he investigated a late-night burglary at a Philadelphia beauty salon. The bullets didn't kill him, but they splintered his spine and permanently paralyzed him. Later, the burglar -- William J. Barnes -- was convicted in the shooting and sentenced to 10-to-20 years in prison.

This week, Barclay died at age 64. The coroner ruled his death a homicide because Barclay died of a urinary tract infection directly related to his paraplegia -- which was directly related to being shot by Barnes.

Barnes (pictured at right), now 71, is a career criminal who served his time for the shooting, and has been in and out of prison in the past 40 years. He was picked up yesterday at a market where he works ... right across the street from the funeral home where his victim's funeral will be later today.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are considering whether to charge Barnes with murder. Was the death a direct result of the shooting? Did shooter Barnes already pay his debt to society, or only a down payment? Can a fatal split-second decision take 41 years to unfold?


GinnyD said...

Ron, Thanks for commenting on my blog. As a retired Attorney, I must admit that I have mixed feelings about this case. First of all, I have to wonder how the Coroner, forty years later, can make a definitive determination that death was a result of a forty year old gunshot wound. On the other hand, like you, I feel the 10 to 20 year sentnece was a down payment. It is an interesting dilemma for society. Barclay's life was over 40 years ago. It just took him a long, long time to die. But yet, at what point do the prosecutors and society say, it isn't worth the expense to put this guy in jail now. If he has health problems, the American taxpayer will end up spending a lot more money taking care of him.

mal said...

Ron, thank you for stopping by. I think you hit the crux of the question, "can it take 41 years" That is at the core of what I am struggling with here. There is no doubt in my mind that the shooting had long term health consequences but can it be validated as the direct cause of death? After 41 years there is a lot of what ifs here if the DA tries to make the Daisy Chain of logic to establish the case.

Ron Franscell said...

As much as I like to have firm views, this one confounds me. I have no sympathy for the shooter and the ex-cop's tragedy is moving ... but I cannot say without reservation that the shooter should now spend the rest of his life in prison (although he's already spent much of it there.)

There's a good book in this, I think.

Honor Adams said...

Ron, thanks for posting your comment on my blog and letting my readers know about your blog.

I share your mixed feelings, but Officer Barclay's life was irrevocably altered on that fateful day. I'm inclined to believe the DA should explore this venue to assure the public every inch of justice that could be served, was.