7:50 am Oct. 7, 2011
Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?
New York Post: The last time Barbara Sheehan made the front of the Post she had to share the page with the story of the Yankees clinching the American League East championship. That was Sept. 22. Today she shares it with the Yankees on the day after they've been eliminated.
Barbara Sheehan, you may remember, is the Howard Beach public-school secretary and mother of two who shot her ex-cop husband 11 times with two different guns while he was shaving, after years of abuse. The day before yesterday the jury appealed to judge Barry Kron to say they were deadlocked in the case; neither side argued that Sheehan wasn't the victim of systematic abuse, and testimony from her friends and family, social workers, and backup from medical records would have made it difficult to argue otherwise. The real question in the case is whether that's an excuse or just a motive: The defense argued that in the moment Sheehan shot her husband she feared for her life in the very instant, while the prosecution argued that she executed her husband in retaliation for the abuse.
Sheehan's story is that she had decided that morning to flee, had taken a gun and cash and was going out the door; she passed by the bathroom where her husband was shaving, strapped with a gun himself, and he threatened her. She shot him with her gun, then reached over to him and grabbed his own, a Glock, and started shooting with the second gun. The prosecution wasn't buying it. So what did this jury acquit on? It's a little confusing because Sheehan was indeed convicted of one gun charge—for the gun she picked up from her husbands slumped body—but not for the gun she stole from the house and claims she was leaving with. Similarly, though the actual accounts of the prosecution and the defense differ, the defense offered a background of "battered-woman syndrome" arguments, which would seem to be a fallback position: If she really responded to a direct death threat, surely plain old self-defense would have sufficed?
Andrea Peyser has some choice words on the matter should you choose to indulge. At any rate, the jury acquitted, and thus Sheehan is "MERRY WIDOW: Wife who killed NYPD hubby is acquitted in slay."
Sheehan's picture is a postage stamp, but much of the page is taken up with a giant photo of Mark Texeira seemingly appealing to the gods to explain their vengeance on his team, which lost the deciding game of a five-game series to the Tigers last night at Yankee Stadium. "Damn Yankees blow the season" reads the text to the left. That's it for New York baseball, kids. See you next season!
Daily News: Their failure is memorialized in a small box on the lower left-hand corner of the News front today, a pinstriped box that reads "YANKS' 200M FLOP: FALL TO TIGERS." Both the drama and the news are reserved for Sheehan: Two thirds of the page, from top to bottom, are devoted to the story and a punchy black background gives pop to knockout-white letters reading "KILLER WIFE SET FREE: She shot cop hubby 11 times, but jury acquits her."
But the News has one last story to hit: The New York Jets' match-up against the New England Patriots. "SEASON AT STAKE" reads knockout-white text over a Jets-green gradient that fades into a split picture of football playboys Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez. "Can Jets beat Pats?" asks a dek.
Observations: Don't forget that a Yankees exit in one respect is not as big as a Yankees entrance. The Yankees are dead in the postseason. Are funerals ever as elaborate as honeymoons? It's almost a way of confirming that we're done with the Yankees for a while, now, and moving on.
From that point of view the quite nice Teixeira shot hobbles the Post, I think, in its effort to go big on Barbara Sheehan. Visually the News' treatment has more impact. It feels more contrasty and punchy.
But a headline does a lot, and "MERRY WIDOW" with an explanatory dek is a draw that the dry text of the News' headline is not. So it's a close call.
Winner: New York Post.