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February 3, 2012

"Inmate blows a shot at freedom during hearing: Judge was set to let killer out, but she shows no remorse"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting article which appeared today in my own Columbus Dispatch.  Here are excerpts:

More than 16 years after pleading guilty in her husband’s poisoning death, Michelle Barrett — called a model prisoner by authorities — was unable yesterday to admit what she did. So, despite logging tens of thousands of service hours in prison, her lack of candor during a hearing at Franklin County Common Pleas Court cost Barrett a chance at freedom.

Judge Mark Serrott denied her request for judicial release, telling her that he was “fully prepared” to free her from prison if she had expressed “genuine remorse and an acknowledgment of what you did.”

The denial means that Barrett’s next chance at freedom is a parole hearing in 2015, when she will have served 20 years for the crime.  She was sentenced to eight to 25 years in prison in July 1995 after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Kirk Barrett.

Mrs. Barrett, 26 at the time, was indicted on a charge of aggravated murder but pleaded to the lesser charge after a judge ruled that part of her statement to police and some evidence were inadmissible.  Mr. Barrett was having an affair and the couple’s marriage was unraveling when Mrs. Barrett called police to their Muldoon Court home on Sept. 25, 1994.  She told officers that her 29-year-old husband had committed suicide by drinking potassium cyanide in orange juice.

Investigators determined that Mrs. Barrett wore a disguise and used a fake name to buy one bottle of cyanide and stole another from a lab at Ohio State University.  Tests showed that the cyanide wasn’t placed in orange juice, but was placed over Kirk Barrett’s morning strawberries and in a glass of water — a glass that contained only her fingerprints.

She did not admit any criminal conduct when she was sentenced.  During yesterday’s hearing, Mrs. Barrett, 43, told the judge that she was sorry and accepted responsibility “for causing Kirk’s death.”

Serrott interrupted her and asked, “What does that mean? I want to know exactly what you did ... and what you’ve learned and whether you are accepting full responsibility or not.”

“I brought poison into our house,” she replied, explaining under additional questioning that she planned to commit suicide. “I tried to drink it. I could not. I left it there in full knowledge that this could be the result. ... I want to say it’s very hard for me to go back to that place and know exactly what my intentions were.”

Serrott told her that he didn’t believe that she was planning to take her own life. Someone who wears a disguise to obtain cyanide, he said, “is planning on killing their husband.”

Mr. Barrett’s mother and sister, as well as a niece and nephew, participated in the hearing from Maryland through a video feed that projected their images on a movie screen in the courtroom. They urged the judge not to release her.... Assistant County Prosecutor David Zeyen sided with the family, saying Mrs. Barrett committed “ the worst form of the offense of voluntary manslaughter.”

Barrett’s attorney, Kort Gatterdam, said her client has amassed 60,000 hours of community service in prison. Serrott, commending Barrett on one of the best prison records he has ever seen, called her “an amazing individual.”  But his inclination to release her based on that record was overshadowed, he said, by her inability to express true remorse “after having 16 1/2 years to think about what you’ve done.”

February 3, 2012 at 04:19 PM | Permalink

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Comments

That she had the possibility of being let out is a travesty of justice. Bet she doesn't make that mistake again.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 3, 2012 5:14:47 PM

Fed:
How much prison time is enough? 25 years is the max for Barrett. LWOP?

Posted by: ? | Feb 3, 2012 7:02:00 PM

Death would be my preferred punishment.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 3, 2012 7:08:42 PM

well fed guess what she can now tell the court sytem to kiss her ass and there is not a damn thing they can do to her. in 5 YEARS SHE MAXES OUT and then she walks out FREE AND CLEAR!

all this bit of theatre shows is the judge was an ASS!

the women plead gulity at the time. has done 1,000's of hours of voluntary community service and now at the end he wants to showboat...what a twit!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 3, 2012 8:20:35 PM

whoops 8 years that is.

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 3, 2012 8:21:22 PM

60,000 hours? Of community service while in prison? Nonsense.

Posted by: Steven M Harris | Feb 4, 2012 6:12:20 AM

LWOP would be the correct sentence IMO. However, because of the plea the max she can do is 25 as somebody pointed. Therefore, she should do the max. Her hours of community service is NOTHING compared to the murder of her husband

Posted by: jim | Feb 4, 2012 8:21:10 AM

The utility analysis.

On the outside. Kills people.

On the inside. Outstanding, superior, best performance ever seen.

Why on earth spoil this record by releasing her? She responds to the structure of prison. Why end that remedy?

Like saying a diabetic off insulin, ends up in a coma. Takes insulin daily, now has the tightest blood sugar control ever seen for 16 years. So let's stop the insulin. Cuckoo.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 4, 2012 10:54:08 AM

So the tax payers have to continue paying for her room and board. Does that make sense?

Posted by: Tom McGee | Feb 4, 2012 12:47:53 PM

Tom McGee --

"So the tax payers have to continue paying for her room and board. Does that make sense?"

Yes.

Of course it would make better sense if she were compelled to pay for her own room and board, but that's not the way it works in this country.

The fact that the taxpayers have to pay for prisoners' room and board is like the fact that the sun rises in the east. It is not even the beginning of an argument as to why EARLY release should be granted to a killer who still refuses to acknowledge her killing. Is that your version of rehabilitation?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 4, 2012 1:31:52 PM

"Serrott told her that he didn’t believe that she was planning to take her own life. Someone who wears a disguise to obtain cyanide, he said, “is planning on killing their husband.”

Absolute judicial nonsense. Pulled that right out of his ass and farted all over the courtroom. People who are planning suicide often go to great lengths to hide their intentions because of the fear that someone will catch them and stop them. Wearing a disguise to get cyanide is not only consistent with suicide it's expected behavior.

Her real crime is that she is failing to to follow the normative script--a script based upon the typical profound judicial ignorance--that the judge expects.

People can argue back and forth about the proper punishment for her crime. But to refuse to release her based upon some childish little fantasy the judge has about the minds of people who are suicidal is a travesty of justice.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 4, 2012 2:40:05 PM

i'm with you daniel. if he didn't want to releace her! show some guts and just "SAY NO"

but what he did was come up with a series of what could be said were "criminally stupidy" questions and then use her failure to answer them as part of his excuse and even then he still had to come back to an old standby "i DON'T BELIVE YOU"

sorry you judicial TWIT that's not your job!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 4, 2012 3:52:35 PM

but i do have a question for all you lawyers!

What the hell is "judicial release"?

"Judge Mark Serrott denied her request for judicial release, telling her that he was “fully prepared” to free her from prison if she had expressed “genuine remorse and an acknowledgment of what you did.”

Wasn't this part of the parole process? or something totally diff?

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 4, 2012 3:54:08 PM

Michael Green spent 27 years in a Texas jail for a sexual assault he did not commit. Green maintained his innocence for that entire period.

Green never became eligible for parole. If he had, one element parole officials would have considered was whether or not Green had "accepted responsibility" for his crime - the crime he did not commit.

In other words, to prove himself worthy for parole, Green would have had to lie. Had he told the truth, he would not be considered for parole because of his "inability to express true remorse “after having 27 years to think about what [he had] done," though he had not really done it.

Story: http://tinyurl.com/7o3nph9

Just something to think about.

Posted by: C | Feb 5, 2012 2:57:21 PM

C --

It is possible in any debate on earth to find an outlier case, or a handful of such cases. This truism is hardly a reason to depart from the settled view that, once the criminal justice system has finally determined beyond a reasonable doubt that you did it, components in the system are entitled to rely on that finding.

Nor do the facts in the Green case have anything to do with the facts in this one. Read the article. What's going on is not a bullhorn claim of innocence. What's going on is that Mrs. Barrett is having a severe case of denial. I'm sure you can tell the difference. So could the judge.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 5, 2012 5:13:01 PM

If it is true that the system is entitled to rely on a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, even if made in error, or even if reached due to misconduct by the State, then the difference between a "bullhorn claim of innocence" and "a severe case of denial" is without a difference.

Posted by: C | Feb 5, 2012 6:19:05 PM

C, the problem, ultimately is that if your argument carries the day, then no one's remorse will ever count.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 5, 2012 6:49:50 PM

Let me try that again:

If it is true that the system is entitled to rely on a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, even if made in error, or even if reached due to misconduct by the State, then the distinction between a "bullhorn claim of innocence" and "a severe case of denial" is without a difference.

Posted by: C | Feb 5, 2012 6:50:23 PM

Federalist - I don't think I have made an argument. I have not suggested that remorse not count; indeed, for people that are actually guilty, expressing remorse and taking genuine responsibility for their acts is a critical first step toward rehabilitation. The Green case I cited argues that a defendant's refusal to express remorse for the crime for which she asserts she did not commit should be considered only in light of all relevant circumstances.

Posted by: C | Feb 5, 2012 7:24:50 PM

"What's going on is that Mrs. Barrett is having a severe case of denial. I'm sure you can tell the difference. So could the judge."

And how did the judge determine that Bill? Not upon any /rational basis/ but by pulling fantasies out of his PMB. She's in denial because the judge has said she's in denial. But the judge's belief is contrary to truth. But truth is not something you have /ever/ cared about Bill. /Ever/.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 5, 2012 8:07:38 PM

C --

This thread is about Mrs. Barrett's murdering her husband. Unlike Green, she pleaded guilty. On that plea, she was adjudged guilty.

You said to federalist that, "The Green case I cited argues that a defendant's refusal to express remorse for the crime for which she asserts she did not commit should be considered only in light of all relevant circumstances."

But that has no relevance here, since, by her plea, Mrs. Barrett did not assert she didn't do it; she asserted the opposite. But even disregarding that fact, do you know of any "relevant circumstances" -- by mean I which evidence -- suggesting, much less showing, that she didn't do it?

If so, you have not set forth any, but I'm perfectly willing to listen.

If not, then there is no reason the (completely unrelated) Green case should give the judge here any reason to conclude other than what he did -- that Mrs. Barrett just isn't coming clean. A killer who, even years later, continues to hedge about what she has done is making a poor case for leniency.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 5, 2012 8:25:04 PM

Mr. Otis - My comment regarding Green does not draw a connection between Green and this case. The Green case serves only to show that the absence of remorse may be signal the defendant is not a candidate for rehabilitation or may signal the defendant has nothing for which she should feel remorse (in connection with the case). You have read much more into my initial post than is actually there.

Posted by: C | Feb 5, 2012 8:32:01 PM


C --

Well, sure, whether one expresses remorse surely depends on whether anyone has done something for which remorse is warranted. If you're guilty of murder, the answer is yes; if not, the answer is no.

Ms. Barrett pleaded guilty, was found guilty, is in fact guilty so far as any of the comments has demonstrated, but still hedges about it. Thus, the judge was perfectly justified in declining to extend leniency. That's all I'm saying.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 5, 2012 10:01:49 PM

ahh bill but the problem is WHY at this late date try and drag it all back up? i'm assuming since it's went forward enough to drag her out of prison and in front of a judge SOMEONE SOMEWHERE thought she had reached the point to get released.

If the so-called "judge" could have shown even ONE reason for his idiotic and useless questions...MAYBE but he can't

since she DID take responsibility....She PLEAD GUILTY absent a TRIAL and forcing the state to spend god knows what to get that plea!

from where i sit this retard of a judge is a closet criminal voyour who wanted to live/visualize the murder via his idiotic questions!

the man needs a psych eval!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 6, 2012 1:18:26 AM

Daniel --

"But truth is not something you have /ever/ cared about Bill. /Ever/."

Does that include the times I agreed with you?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 6, 2012 2:13:19 AM

I would turn her loose regardless of any affectation of remorse. From a utilitarian standpoint, it is not worth any amount of money to continue to incarcerate her. She is unlikely to murder her husband or anyone else again.

Posted by: Jardinero1 | Feb 6, 2012 7:49:51 PM

Jardinero1 --

I quite agree that she is "unlikely to murder her husband...again." Indeed, that may be the unlikeliest thing I ever heard of. I came across a rumor somewhere that, once dead, they tend to stay dead.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 6, 2012 8:24:35 PM

hmm good one bill!

"I quite agree that she is "unlikely to murder her husband...again." Indeed, that may be the unlikeliest thing I ever heard of. I came across a rumor somewhere that, once dead, they tend to stay dead."

BUT you realize if she's from chicago....you could be wrong! graveyards there have been voting forever!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 6, 2012 8:30:56 PM

The only thing that the Common Pleas Court should have considered was can she support herself and will she re-offend?

Posted by: Jardinero1 | Feb 6, 2012 10:54:20 PM

i agree jard! having her relive the memory for the sick fantasy life of the judge...sorry that boat SANK 17 years ago.

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 7, 2012 12:16:41 AM

I was an acquaintance of Kirk's and Shellie's and think back to this tragedy. I am glad to see that Shellie is still in prison! I remember feeling envious of their fabulous wedding, honeymoon, and careers. Appearances sure can be deceiving!

Posted by: Former Acquaintance | Mar 24, 2012 3:32:30 PM

@ Bill Otis:
While I agree with you that people will often wear a disguise in the case of suicide. that was far from the case here. This woman went in disguise when purchasing the first bottle from a company as she fraudulantly used someone else's name from another company to purchase the cyanide. Upon driving home, realized it has a serial # that could be traced to her, hid it in the basement, and then stole a different bottle from Ohio State. Guess what? She did not wear a disguise that time. Looks like you farted without knowing the facts. Be careful what you post. Sincerely, Kirk Barrett's Sister

Posted by: Marty | Nov 3, 2012 11:53:09 PM

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