Judge: Man's Conviction Of Killing Wife Stands

PALATKA, Fla. - The man convicted in June of killing his wife four years ago will not get a new trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Edward Hedstrom denied defense motions that claimed pretrial publicity tainted the jury that convicted Justin Barber of killing his wife April at Guana River State Park in Aug. 17, 2002.

The jury agreed with prosecutors, who said Barber shot his wife in the head, then shot himself in an effort to blame an unknown assailant for the crime.

Barber's attorney Bob Willis claimed the 12 jurors who reached the guilty verdict were influenced by media coverage, which included national network reports and live trial coverage by Court TV.

Maureen Christine, former chief prosecutor for St. Johns County, presented the evidence that led a grand jury to indict Barber for murdering his wife April.

The defense argued that if any juror heard, or heard about what Christine said in an interview with Court TV during Barber's trial it could have swayed their decision.

"I believe he planned to murder his wife. I believe that he planned to shoot her," Christine said during an interview with Court TV. "I think that they went down to the beach, that he was going to kill her at the foot of the ramp and that she caught on that he had a gun and she ran. The testimony is that he ran some 300 feet, that's close to a mile, that he dragged her body back, that she went that far away to get away form him."

However, the judge said the defense could not "absolutely" prove that any juror heard what Christine said on TV and he denied the motion for a new trial.

"That's very troublesome. Having been a former prosecutor to do that, I just have no explanation for that," Willis said about Christine's Court TV interview.

Christine did not want to comment on Willis' assertion or on Tuesday's court hearing.

After the judge's decision, Barber was taken back to jail, convicted of first-degree murder. The jury has recommended the death penalty.

Barber is scheduled to be sentenced Friday morning. The jury has recommended he receive the death penalty.

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