Federal jury in Muskogee sentences Kenneth Barrett to death

Friday, November 18th 2005, 10:05 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) -- A federal jury early Friday sentenced Kenneth Eugene Barrett to death for the murder of a state trooper during a raid on Barrett's Sequoyah County home.

The same jury convicted Barrett of the 1999 shooting death of Trooper David "Rocky" Eales.

On a count of intentionally killing a law enforcement officer engaged in his duty, the jurors sentenced Barrett to die. He received life without parole sentences on two other counts.

The jurors deliberated for more than eight hours, returning with the verdict about 1 AM Friday.

This is the third time Barrett has had to face trial in the killing of Eales. In 2002, in a state murder trial, a Sequoyah County jury deadlocked on a murder charge against Barrett. In a subsequent state trial in 2004, Barrett was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to 30 years in state prison.

Barrett shot and killed Eales and wounded Trooper John "Buddy" Hamilton as the two officers, driving in an unmarked vehicle, led a caravan of police cars that drove to Barrett's rural Sequoyah County home before dawn to serve a "no-knock" search warrant for drugs.

Barrett had said that because the lead vehicle had no emergency lights on that he did not know he was shooting at police.

U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling angered Barrett Thursday when he repeatedly told jurors Barrett was not remorseful for Eales' death and touched on Barrett's relationship with his family.

Barrett bolted from his courtroom seat.

"This is about murder. It's not about my family," Barrett yelled at Sperling. "Take me out of the courtroom."

Federal marshals removed Barrett from the courtroom, and he chose not to attend the reading of the sentencing verdict.

Defense attorneys Roger Hilfiger and Bret Smith had argued Barrett, 44, would never get out of prison because of the length of state and federal sentences. They contended there was no cause for the death penalty.

Although the law allows a person convicted and sentenced in a state court to be tried again in federal court for the same crime, most people consider it double jeopardy, Hilfiger told jurors.

"It's not. But the real question is -- is it fair? The government has the authority to do whatever it wants to, even kill people," Hilfiger, a former U.S. attorney, told jurors.

Hilfiger alleged federal prosecutors were being vindictive because Eales was a state trooper.

"They lay in wait for more than five years ... ," Hilfiger said. "The state has invoked punishment, but it doesn't satisfy the Highway Patrol or the federal prosecutors."

Sperling argued Barrett intended to take out as many lawmen as he could on the night of the shoot-out and is violent, so should be put to death.

"This was game day for the murderer. In the name of justice give this defendant what he deserves. He wanted the thrill of the kill."

He said the defense asked for leniency -- "we ask for justice."