Man convicted of killing wife asking for new trial

Justin Barber serving life sentence for killing wife in 2002

Published On: May 04 2012 10:00:18 AM EDT   Updated On: Sep 15 2006 08:34:18 AM EDT

Years after Justin Barber was convicted of killing his wife, he returned to court Friday with new attorneys and took the stand to ask for a new trial.

A jury found Barber guilty of murder after his wife, April (pictured below), was shot and killed during a late night walk in Guana State Park in 2002. Barber claimed a robber shot them both, but the prosecution argued his motive was to collect on a $2 million life insurance policy. The jury recommended the death penalty, but the judge sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

In the motion for a new trial, Barber claims his former lawyer, Robert Willis, was inadequate and only took the case for the money. He said his old defense team gave him bad advice and talked him out of a plea deal.

"They prefaced it with, 'We never say this to clients, we shouldn't say this to clients, but we're 90 percent sure you're not going to be convicted,'" Barber said on the stand Friday.

Barber's new lawyers also say Willis should have brought up a serial rapist as an alternate suspect.

At Friday's hearing, Willis waived his attorney/client immunity and testified that while he believes Barber is innocent and deserves a new trial, he doesn't feel his defense was inadequate.

"This case was different in that we believed him from the beginning, actually literally believed him, truly believed in his innocence," Willis testified Friday.

What they disagree on is whether or not there was a conflict of interest.

If Barber were acquitted at trial, he might have stood to gain more than $2 million of insurance money. He claims his old attorneys would have gotten part of that payout, but they say they weren't in it for the money.

"We took $20,000 as a fee, and that's all we ever took," Willis said. "This case was not about the money."

The state attorney's office stands by Barber's conviction.

"We believe that he got a fair trial," State Attorney R.J. Larizza said. "We believe that Mr. Willis and the team that represented him at the trial did an excellent job and we believe that the 3.850 claim should be denied."

Depending on what the judge decides, it's possible Barber could receive a new trial.