A Delaware man who in February 2016 walked into a police station and confessed to killing three people and robbing three West Philadelphia businesses at gunpoint was convicted Friday in Philadelphia of committing the robberies.
Common Pleas Court Judge J. Scott O’Keefe found James Barrow guilty of multiple counts of robbery and conspiracy after four days of testimony. The nonjury trial featured video-recorded interrogation interviews during which Barrow confessed to FBI agents and Philadelphia police detectives to robbing the three businesses with an accomplice, who is still at large.
The convictions mark the second time Barrow, 33, has been found guilty of committing crimes to which he had confessed.
Last October, a Philadelphia jury convicted him of first-degree murder and related counts in the slaying of Kamara Joseph, 30, of Southwest Philadelphia. Barrow killed him during a home-invasion robbery on Aug. 24, 2009, according to trial testimony. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole followed by 28½ to 57 years for related crimes.
O’Keefe on Friday sentenced him to six to 12 years for each robbery and conspiracy count, to run concurrently.
Testimony was offered by law enforcement officers, victims, and expert witnesses. A defense expert, Carol L. Armstrong, a clinical and research neuropsychologist, said Barrow has a low IQ of 75, is schizophrenic, and was so intellectually disabled he could not understand the Miranda warnings that he waived to confess.
A prosecution expert, Kirk Heilbrun, a forensic psychologist and professor of psychology at Drexel University, testified that Barrow’s IQ would have to be 69 or lower for him to be intellectually disabled and that he knowingly waived his rights.
Barrow, who wore a blue Department of Corrections uniform to court each day, did not testify. He declined to comment before sentencing. Despite confessing to the crimes, he had pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Jason Kadish, argued that Barrow falsely confessed to committing the robberies driven by mental illness that led him to believe he was being stalked and therefore would be safer in prison.
Kadish argued that Barrow learned of the three robberies after seeing a Philadelphia police compilation video of the crimes on YouTube. Assistant District Attorney Jessica Chung countered that Barrow had told investigators details of the robberies that were not included in the video compilation.
The first business robbed, on Feb. 2, 2015, was Elzina’s Lounge in the 5600 block of Master Street. In the interrogation video, Barrow told Detective Robert Daly that he pointed a long-barrel silver revolver while his accomplice jumped over the bar and took money from the cash register.
“The people next to me, I dug in their pockets to get what I could get,” said Barrow, who estimated that up to $700 was stolen from the bar.
More than a month later, about 12:30 a.m. March 7, Barrow and the accomplice got away with about $200 from Vincent’s Pizza in the 6400 block of Lansdowne Avenue, he told investigators.
About 37 minutes later, at 1:07 a.m., Barrow and his accomplice robbed Jim’s Steaks in the 400 block of North 62nd Street. The manager, Rodney Holmes, testified that the revolver’s large size caught his attention. “I thought it was fake because I’ve never seen a gun like that,” he said. “But I wasn’t taking any chances.... I got back down on the floor. I was so scared.”
Barrow and co-defendant Tyrek Smith are awaiting trial for the Aug. 29, 2009, killings of Jonathan Pitts, 21, and Nakeisha Finks, 20, who were bound and shot to death in Pitts’ Delancey Street home. As with the killing of Joseph five days earlier, Barrow told investigators his motive in breaking in was to search for drug money that he believed was stashed inside the house.