The Cool Justice Report
June 21, 2007
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report
A 29 year old patent lawyer, Jonathan Edington, pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter in Bridgeport Superior Court last week. Edington claimed that his two year old daughter had expressed concern about returning to their Fairfield home for fear of their 60 year old neighbor.
Barry James was a harmless man, a diabetic who suffered from neuropathy in his legs.
Barry's only sin was that he had never left home. For all of his 60 years he resided with his mother, Rita, and father, Charlie.
Shortly before Barry was killed, Edington moved next door with his family. No one else in this quiet section of Fairfield ever feared or complained about Barry -- until the Edingtons arrived.
Returning home from a family trip to a relative's home in Rhode Island, Edington's wife called him with vague concerns about Barry. A bizarre, frail man, Edington worked himself up into an emotional frenzy. Visions of his daughter sucking her thumb suddenly became visions of her performing oral sex on the hapless neighbor.
In his twisted mind Edington transformed harmless Barry into a monster. He armed himself with a large knife from his kitchen, believing that Barry's fragile, 91 year old father might have a gun. He vaulted through Barry's first floor bedroom window to "confront" him over the imagined offense.
The confrontation was one sided. Overweight and disabled, Barry was unable to fend off the vicious attack. First pummeling him, then repeatedly stabbing him as his 89 year old mother, Rita stood several feet away.
He apparently never heard Barry's last words, but they ring in Rita's ears:
"I don't even know your daughter!"
Barry lay on his bedroom floor, the blood draining from his battered and hacked body. Edington, yelled some invective at poor Rita as he vaulted once more through the window.
The day Barry's obituary appeared in the paper the headline screamed that Edington's wife claimed Barry had molested their two year old. Barry was murdered once again!
His family, now tortured by this allegation, invited the Fairfield police to thoroughly search the home. After a full investigation, the police concluded that the claim of molestation was untrue. "Bogus" was the word State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict used to describe it the day Edington pled guilty.
Barry's family put their trust in the police and the prosecutor and sadly accepted the decision by Mr. Benedict that murder could not be proven. The law provides that one who kills in a state of extreme emotional disturbance cannot be convicted of murder. Law mitigates the crime to first degree manslaughter. Instead of life in prison, Edington faces twenty years when he is sentenced in August.
The defense of extreme emotional disturbance doesn't require the defendant to prove that the allegation that propelled him to kill was true. An evaluation from a noted forensic psychiatrist found that Edington, though bizarre and disturbed, was not legally insane. His delusional belief apparently overcame reason.
Whatever the diagnosis, Barry James was killed needlessly. A young man with a bright future faces hard time in prison and a young family is left to wonder, like the James' family: Why?
Bridgeport attorney Richard Meehan Jr. represented the James family and the estate in a $5 million dollar civil suit against Edington. Meehan was the lead defense counsel for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim's corruption trial. Meehan is certified as a criminal trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1994 and serves on the organizations Board of Examiners. He is a Charter Fellow, American Academy of Trial Counsel. Meehan has also obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in complex medical and dental malpractice and personal injury litigation. He is a past president of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association and appears regularly on Court TV.