William J. Barnes may have been found not guilty yesterday of murdering a former city cop who died 41 years after Barnes shot him, but he is hardly a free man.
Though Barnes, 74, cried tears of joy after a jury found him not guilty of first-, second- and third-degree murder in the August 2007 death of former Officer Walter Barclay, he could still stay behind bars for years, due to parole violations, according to attorneys on both sides of the case.
Despite that, Barnes savored yesterday's verdict, which came after a day and a half of jury deliberations and a weeklong trial in Common Pleas Court.
"Thank you, all," the tall, white-haired man said as the jury of nine women and three men left the courtroom, which was filled with about 15 members of his family and friends.
"That's the first time I've seen him cry in his life. My brother's a tough old convict," Jimmy Barnes, 57, said minutes after the verdict was read.
Barclay's sister, Rosalyn Harrison, cried too, but her tears were from disappointment.
She stormed out of the courtroom immediately after the verdict.
Surrounded by police officers including Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby, Harrison, 71, declined to speak with reporters as she left the Criminal Justice Center.
After living paralyzed in a wheelchair for 41 years, Barclay died at age 64 of a urinary-tract infection that the District Attorney's Office said was a direct result of being shot by Barnes during a 1966 burglary of an East Oak Lane hair salon.
Barnes, a career criminal known as the Cowboy, shot the 23-year-old rookie cop in the leg and shoulder, partially severing his spinal cord.
Barnes served 16 years for the shooting, made parole and was working at a Roxborough grocery store when he was charged with murder in September 2007.
He was arrested with a cell phone and a set of car keys in his pocket - both violations of his parole terms.
"He has these technical parole violations that he's in on. He has to go before the parole board before he can get out," said defense attorney Samuel Silver.
Barnes is not scheduled to go before the board until 2013.
Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron said Barnes has four years remaining on the 10-to-20 year sentence he received for shooting Barclay, while other crimes he committed after making parole in the early 1980s could keep him locked up until 2030.
"We're still of the opinion that he caused the death of Officer Barclay. I just think that the time element was a little too much for the jury to overcome," said Cameron, adding that he'd encourage Harrison and the FOP to oppose Barnes' receiving parole.
"Your heart breaks for the family that came in and shared what this time was like for [Barclay] and how difficult and debilitating this injury was," said Assistant District Attorney Bridget Kirn, who tried the case with Cameron.
Silver, who called only one witness during the trial, said he was "obviously thrilled, relieved and gratified for a job well-done by the jury."
During the trial he argued that linking Barclay's gunshot wound to his death 41 years later wasn't plausible because he had accumulated a mountain of unrelated medical maladies over the ensuing decades.
Among them, Silver noted, were injuries from three car accidents, two falls from a wheelchair and nightmarish neglect and abuse at the hands of caregivers who were paid to take care of Barclay during the final decade of his life.
"[Barnes] has long expressed remorse and regret for shooting Officer Barclay, but he did not feel that that shot or shots caused Officer Barclay's death," Silver said.