Barket trial: Day 2 UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Barket trial: Day 2 UPDATE

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2008 at 3:21 PM

The Bermuda trial of Little Rock lawyer Gary Barket for attempting to clear airport security with guns in his checked luggage entered its second day today. We have a preliminary report on the jump. Both Barket and his wife Terry offered tearful testimony today. It will be included in a later report. Character witnesses were Mayor Mark Stodola, Democratic National Committee member Lottie Shackelford and Richard Mays, the Little Rock lawyer and former member of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

UPDATE: The Barkets' testimony is now at the top of the jump. The case is expected to reach the jury tomorrow.

By Elizabeth Roberts

Of the Royal Gazette

AFTERNOON UPDATE

A US lawyer and his wife broke down in tears Tuesday as they told a jury he brought two guns to Bermuda in his luggage by accident.

Gary Barket, 61, faces at least 10 years in jail if convicted of importing the weapons, which he says his wife Terry asked him to hide in a suitcase months before for safekeeping.

In emotional testimony at Supreme Court, the Arkansas-based lawyer claimed he had no idea they were still there when he brought the same case to Bermuda on a business trip. "That would be crazy. It would be crazy to do anything to jeopardise my legal career and my family, to devastate them or subject myself to severe penalties," he protested.

Meanwhile his wife of 31 years also wiped away tears as she told the jury how she much she regrets asking him to hide the guns, which belonged to her late father. She explained how she wished to ensure they were safely out of the way when cleaners came to their home in Little Rock. "I asked him to hide the guns. I do not like guns, I do not like to handle them. We are not gun people, so it was sort of a 'honey do' thing - 'please do this for me dear.' I wanted him to take care of this for me. I asked him to put them in a safe place," she said.

The trial has heard how Mr. Barket travelled with the revolver, semi-automatic pistol and four bullets in his garment bag carried as hold luggage during plane trips to Bermuda from Arkansas, via Newark in New Jersey on January 23. They were discovered when the bag was X-rayed at L.F Wade International Airport in Bermuda on his way home to Little Rock on January 25. Barket denies three charges under the Firearms Act resulting from the discovery, which carry a mandatory 10 year jail term upon conviction.

In his evidence in his own defence, Barket said the weapons belonged to his late father-in-law Walter Menkee Jr, and had been inherited by wife Terry upon Mr. Menkee's death. She asked him to hide them away somewhere safe in October 2007. He claimed he put them in a garment bag hanging in another closet - and forgot they were there until staff at the airport discovered them.

Asked by his lawyer Saul Froomkin QC whether he intended to bring the weapons into Bermuda or had any idea that he had done so, Barket replied: "No, absolutely not." Mrs. Barket followed him onto the witness stand Tuesday, telling the jury how they have been married for 31 years and have one son, who is himself married. Mrs. Barket explained that she inherited the guns from her father when he died in 1989. Her mother passed away in 1998 and the ashes of both her parents were subsequently stored in a closet at her home along with the firearms. Mrs. Barket told the jury both her parents served in the US military. Her father was in World War Two and the Korean War, reaching the rank of Major. Her mother, Edith Menkee, reached the rank of Captain. In October 2007, she said, she came across the guns while retrieving their ashes and accompanying paperwork to present to the Arlington National Cemetery, where those who served in the US armed forces are honoured. Their ashes are due to be interred there next month on what would have been their 63rd wedding anniversary.

Mrs. Barket broke down in tears as she told the jury how she asked her husband to hide the firearms away from cleaners due to go through the closet, and he secreted them in the garment bag in question. Defence lawyer Mr. Froomkin inquired whether she recalled prior to her husband's trip to Bermuda that they were still in the bag. "No, I regret that," she replied.

FIRST REPORT OF THE DAY

US officials have paid glowing testimony to the character of an Arkansas lawyer facing ten years in jail if convicted of firearms importation.

Gary Barket is on trial at the Supreme Court accused of bringing a revolver, a semi-automatic pistol and four bullets into Bermuda - something he claims was an innocent mistake.

Among the witnesses called by the defence to pay tribute to his good  character Tuesday were a former Arkansas Supreme Court judge, a Democratic party superdelegate and Mayor of Little Rock, Mark Stodola. Mr. Stodola told the jury he's known the accused since 1976, describing him as someone with an "untarnished, exemplary reputation in terms of ethics and honesty."

Barket, 61, travelled to Bermuda from Arkansas via Newark in New Jersey with the 0.32mm calibre revolver, 6.35 mm calibre semi-automatic pistol and bullets in a garment bag. They were detected by an X-ray machine at L.F Frederick Wade Airport as he prepared to leave Bermuda on January 25 with  the bag checked into the plane's hold.

Barket has pleaded not guilty to importation charges under the Firearms Act which carry a mandatory minimum prison term of ten years upon conviction. He has told the court he packed the guns, which belonged to his late father-in-law, in the bag for safekeeping months before. He then forgot they were in there until they were discovered at the airport.

The jury heard from Police firearms expert John Kirkpatrick on Monday that the revolver was found unloaded, and the pistol did not have a magazine which is necessary for it to be fired.

In evidence Tuesday, Mr. Stodola explained that he is an attorney and former legal counsel to the Little Rock National Airport Commission. He told the jury that US federal regulations permit unloaded firearms to be carried in luggage in an aircraft hold, in a secure case. They are forbidden in carry-on luggage.

Quizzed by defence lawyer Saul Froomkin QC about whether it matters if one is on a domestic or international flight, Mr. Stodola replied: "It does not. That's one of the things I find most surprising about this situation Mr. Barket finds himself in. There's not an advisory or directive on local or international flights as to what the laws in another country might be as to the legality of possessing a weapon. As a prosecutor for many years, I've had many of these kind of cases."

He went on to say of Barket: "It's shocking to me that he can be found in this type of situation where he might be facing a mandatory minimum of ten years."

The next character witness, Lottie Shackelford, is currently a superdelegate for the Democrats and was the first female Mayor of Arkansas where she served from 1987 to 1990.

Former US President Bill Clinton appointed her a US delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in Austria, and also to the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Ms Shackelford has known the defendant since the early 1980s, and said: "Mr. Barket is a very good, upstanding citizen for the city of Little Rock. He's the sort of person interested in the growth and development of our city - the sort of person you could go to when you needed help and support with community affairs."

Next to give a character reference was Judge Richard Mays, a former justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court and a former state legislator. He is currently a senior partner in an Arkansas law firm. He has known Barket since the early 1970s, and said: "He has the highest reputation for integrity and competence and professionalism in the community. He's one of the few persons who has been able to keep the same basic charm and grace with which he started out in the profession."

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