Dad is identified as CHRISTOPHER BARNEY.
Life sentence for Taos father in baby’s death
Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 1:30 pm, Wed May 16, 2012.
Landon Barney coughed.
New Mexico State Police blood pattern analyst Sgt. Shayne Arthur told a Taos jury last week (May 9) that he knew the one-year-old had coughed blood after being stabbed a single time in the chest because the speckled pattern near the crib was consistent with someone “aspirating blood.”
The knife, wielded by the child’s father, 29-year-old Christopher Barney, pierced the soft tissues of Landon’s chest, broke his collar bone and two ribs, cut a major artery in his heart and severed his spinal cord, medical investigators found.
As unsettling as the child’s death is, what the lawyers in the case argued and what the jury clocked 16 hours debating was, did Christopher Barney intend to kill his son in May 2010 when he returned to his home on Straight Arrow Road after a fight with his girlfriend, or did a psychotic episode during the incident convey negligence?
In the end, the jury found Barney guilty of intentional child abuse resulting in death Monday (May 14). Eighth Judicial District Judge John Paternoster sentenced Barney Tuesday (May 15) to the mandatory statutory life sentence, which is 30 years in prison. The case will automatically be appealed.
There was evidence to suggest that Barney was not in full control of his actions at the time of the incident, as defense expert witness Dr. Maxann Shwartz testified in the trial’s second day. While Shwartz, a forensic psychologist, concluded that Barney was competent enough to stand trial, she diagnosed him as clinically psychotic.
In the course of her interviews with Barney, Shwartz painted a dark picture of Barney’s mental state that contributed to Landon’s death. She’d learned that Barney was badly abused as a child and began hearing a woman’s voice around age 7 that told him to do things over the years, including to kill himself.
Becoming stressed out and depressed exacerbated Barney’s mental problems, Shwartz said, which could have caused him to black out while he was doing himself and the baby harm.
Multiple sources, including Shwartz and the child’s mother Felicia Davis, testified that Barney believed that Davis was cheating on him, which may have triggered a psychotic reaction.
“He said that he'd felt hopeless for quite a while.
He felt she was cheating on him. So he began to drink and didn't want to live anymore,” Shwartz said. “He said, ‘I just started stabbing.’”
Barney told Shwartz that he was unsure “how the baby got in the mix,” and Shwartz told the jury that she believed him, pointing to the extent of Barney’s self-inflicted injuries as evidence.
Dr. Richard Massen, who treated Barney at Holy Cross Hospital, confirmed the injuries, saying that Barney had sliced into his thigh, parting the skin to reveal soft tissue. He also slashed his own throat and cut his left wrist to the bone — so badly, in fact, that he severed two major arteries and the tendons that controlled movement in his fingers. Barney also stabbed himself in the chest.
“The severity of these stab wounds — I've never seen anything like it. The number, the severity, the intensity of the wound was unlike anything I've ever seen,” Shwartz said. “Clinically, I believed him. Stabbing his infant son was not congruent with who this human being was. Is.”
Barney’s attorney, public defender Ian Lloyd, also said that Barney’s wounds were indicative of negligence. In his closing statements, Lloyd showed the jury grisly photos from the bedroom where the baby slept. In the photo, the crib stands close to the bed, and the small trail of carpet between is puddled with blood.
“It's sick behavior, because I don't know what else to call it,” Lloyd said. “It's not someone who's well. Christopher dealt with it by cutting on himself.”
The next photo showed Barney in a hospital bed, bloody and covered in bandages, his throat opened with slash wounds.
"That's Chris' neck. He stood in the mirror in the bathroom and looked at himself and slit his throat over and over. I don't know any other explanation other than mental illness," Lloyd said. “That's not somebody who's in his right mind. What happened to that child is sad, and it's sick. What I’m asking you is to look deeper and see that there is no rhyme or reason to the events of that evening. The only explanation is that he suffered from a deep mental illness.”
Eighth Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos argued that while Barney might be insane, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be held responsible.
“It is obvious, and it is clear as day that there is no more intentional act than picking up a knife and sticking it into a baby,” Gallegos said in his closing arguments. “In the end, all the evidence points to only one conclusion: When he picked up that knife, nothing else mattered. Not even his state of mind. That is why Landon Barney is no longer with us.”