Majority of jurors seated for downstate murder trial of former Massena Wellness Center program director
By ANDY GARDNER
MASSENA -- The majority of jurors have been seated in the downstate murder trial of a former Massena Wellness Center program director.
Justin Barkley, 39, is on trial in Tompkins County Court for second-degree murder. He is accused of killing 52-year-old William Schumacher on Dec. 8, 2016 in the Ithaca Walmart parking lot by shooting him with a .30-.06 rifle and running him over with his car. He is also charged with menacing a police officer for firing a shot near police after they chased Barkley to his Dryden home following Schumacher’s death. He is being held at the Tompkins County Jail, Ithaca, without bail.Attorney Peter Dumas of Canton-based Dumas and Narrow, PC is representing Barkley. Tompkins County District Attorney Matthew Van Houten is prosecuting the case and was not available for comment.
Dumas said that Monday and Tuesday’s proceedings ended with 12 jurors and one alternate seated. Court will be in recess Wednesday and resume Thursday with selection of three more alternates, he said.
The defense attorney said he has a list of about a dozen potential witnesses, including Barkley.
“There’s a good possibility that he’ll be called,” Dumas said. “There’s a lot of things the defense lawyer gets to decide, but it’s also up to the defendant to decide.”
He said Barkley has gone back and forth on whether or not he wants to testify on his own behalf. The defendant could refuse to take the witness stand if asked, or testify in spite of his attorney’s advice against it.
“At certain times, he’s expressed he wants to and other times he’s expressed he may not,” Dumas said. “I always make the decision about what witnesses to call at the end of the people’s case. I see what they’ve got out there as far as proof … I don’t want to open the door to something that’s not in the people’s direct case.”
Dumas said the jury selection process in Tompkins County is a bit different from his native North Country courts. For example, in St. Lawrence County Court, potential jurors fill out a questionnaire in advance of being called and the attorneys get to use their answers to help decide who is dismissed and who is seated.
“Down here they don’t do that. They have them come up and sit in the box and pass a microphone around and sort of introduce themselves … it’s up to the attorneys to ferret that stuff out,” he said.
Dumas said he has a decent relationship with the prosecutors in the case, despite occasionally bumping heads in court, which is typical for trial proceedings.
“My dealings with the DA’s office down there have been very good … personable and cooperative,” he said. “This judge seems very thoughtful. He takes his time on stuff and he makes decisions. It’s not ‘this is the way I’ve done it 10 times before so it’s the way I’m going to do it again.’”
The case has taken a couple of twists leading up to the trial.
In March 2017, Barkley was arraigned on the murder and menacing charges for the second time after having been found not able to participate in his defense. During his initial arraignment in December 2016, Barkley claimed in court to have killed President Donald Trump and tried to plead guilty. The judge refused to accept the plea and ordered a psychiatric evaluation. That led to him being confined to Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center for a couple of months, where doctors later determined he was fit to stand trial.
The New York State Office of Mental Health said Barkley, a Madrid-Waddington High School graduate, had resigned his position at the Massena Wellness Center prior to Schumacher’s alleged murder.
“Justin Barkley was not employed by the state of New York at the time of this incident. This former employee was a licensed master social worker from September 2008 until May 2016 at St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, where his final position was program director of the Massena Wellness Center,” according to Ben Rosen, who at the time was the OMH Public Information Office director. “In May 2016, he voluntarily left St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center for a position with the Office of Children and Family Services.”
Barkley began working at The Office of Children and Family Services’ Finger Lakes Residential Center on May 4, 2016 and resigned effective Aug. 8, 2016, according to New York State Office of Children & Family Services officials.