Man Charged With Murder For 1966 Shooting

By: Gerri L. Elder

William Barnes is a 71-year-old man from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He made a tragic mistake and committed a crime more than 41 years ago, for which he spent 15 years in prison. His crime was very serious – he shot and injured a police officer. He was 30 years old at the time and after spending almost two decades behind bars he and his criminal defense attorneys thought he had paid his debt to society for the crime. He was wrong. The consequences of his actions from all those years ago are more far reaching than he ever could have imagined.

Barnes was rearrested last year when his victim from 41 years ago died. He is now charged with the murder of Walter Barclay. Yahoo News reports that a judge recently ruled that Barnes would stand trial for murder because prosecutors in the case say that Barclay’s death was a direct result of the injuries he sustained when he was shot in 1966.

After Barnes shot Barclay during an attempted break-in during November 1966, the officer suffered a spinal injury that resulted in paralysis. Prosecutors say that Barclay died from a urinary tract infection in 2007 and that the infection was a result of his paralysis. Since Barnes caused the paralysis, they have decided to charge Barnes with murder.

In the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Judge Bradley Moss recently ruled that Barnes could be put on trial for the murder of Barclay. Moss did note that he was not aware of any other case in the United States in which such a long time had elapsed since a suspect had caused an injury and then been charged with murder.

After hearing from the prosecutors during a 2-hour hearing, Moss decided that the case against Barnes could go forward. The trial is set to begin on March 19.

Bobby Hoof is Barnes’ criminal lawyer. Hoof believes that the prosecutors cannot prove that Barclay did not die due to another cause rather than a circumstance related to the 41-year-old shooting injury. Barclay was 64 years old at the time of his death in August 2007, and an autopsy was not performed. Additionally, medical examiners did not rule out that Barclay could have died from causes unrelated to his spinal injury.

Ian Hood, the medical examiner in the case, told Judge Moss that an autopsy had not been performed on Barclay because his medical reports indicated that he had died from a urinary tract infection related to his paralysis. Hood recorded the cause of death as homicide.

Hoof has said that after the shooting Barclay was involved in two separate car accidents and had also fallen out of his wheelchair, and that any of these events could have contributed to his death.

Because Barnes caused the original injury to Barclay’s spine 41 years ago, he may be legally responsible for the death if it was a result of the injury. However, the prosecution must prove that Barclay’s death was a direct result of the injury that Barnes so foolishly caused as a young man all those years ago.