STROUDSBURG, Pa. – A Pennsylvania man has been acquitted of third-degree murder but convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of the son who lived for more than two decades in a vegetative state following a brain injury.
Christopher Barber, 47, who served six years in the 1990s on an aggravated assault conviction in the case, was freed after a time-served term.
Prosecutors said he shook his fussy baby boy and threw him onto a couch so hard that he suffered catastrophic brain damage. The son survived 23 years in a vegetative state, hooked to a breathing machine and fed through a tube, until he died in May 2015.
Jurors in Monroe County deliberated for less than two hours before rendering a verdict Friday, and the judge then imposed a 2½ to five-year term, allowing Barber's release due to time served.
Authorities said Barber told police that his son would not stop crying while being fed on New Year's Eve in 1991 in Saylorsburg, about 25 miles north of Bethlehem.
Barber tearfully testified during the trial that he didn't recall much of what happened on that night and also didn't recall what he later told police but clearly remembered "dropping," not "throwing," the infant. He said he was a stressed-out 21-year-old who was new to fatherhood and working long hours to support his family. Asked whether anger played a role in his actions, he said it was exhaustion and frustration, not anger.
Barber apologized for his actions after the verdict and before sentencing, saying he had taken responsibility since the beginning and "It was never my intent to harm my son."
Judge Art Zulick called it "a sad, horrific case" that snatched a child's life away at just two months old and left a father who now "will have to live with the consequences of those actions."
Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso called it a "tough, unusual case with a bittersweet conclusion."
"In the end, I don't think any amount of time served could ever be justice for what this victim had to suffer through," he said.