By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LEBANON - A jury has convicted a Warren County man of aggravated murder and today will consider whether he should be executed for killing his wife.
After deliberating about five hours on Monday, a jury of eight women and four men found Rocky Lee Barton guilty as charged in the Jan. 16 slaying of his wife, Kimbirli Jo, 44. The jury agreed with prosecutors' arguments that he planned to lure his wife to their Wayne Township farmhouse and kill her. Defense lawyers had argued Barton, 47, killed her on impulse, in the midst of an argument.
Barton had tried to kill himself after his wife's slaying, but survived a shotgun blast and underwent facial reconstruction. He sat silently with his left hand resting against his face as lawyers gave closing arguments Monday.
Today, the jurors will hear testimony about circumstances they should weigh when considering whether to recommend a death sentence.
During those deliberations, the jury will be sequestered, said Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel.
In his closing argument, Assistant Prosecutor Andy Sievers listed steps Barton took the day of the slaying: He hid a shotgun in a garage where it was "ready for action"; he repeatedly called Mrs. Barton at her office until he persuaded her to come to their isolated farmhouse.
Finally, Sievers said, Barton shot his wife in the shoulder from five to seven feet away - then followed her and shot her again at closer range to make sure she was dead.
But attorney Don Oda, who represents Barton, argued that his client's actions were haphazard rather than purposeful.
The gun could have been placed in the garage long before the killing for another reason, Oda said, and in the midst of an argument, Barton grabbed the gun in a "spur-of-the-moment" impulse.
The events leading to Mrs. Barton's slaying were more like "a train wreck" than a planned course of action, Oda said. "It went out of control, and Kim Barton was killed."
Oda conceded his client shot Mrs. Barton twice and she fell into the arms of her daughter, but "as horrible as all of those things are, it doesn't make it an aggravated murder."
She said Barton was a jealous, controlling husband who became determined to kill his wife because he knew this time she really meant to leave him. "This time, it was different. ... This time, he prepared for her," Hutzel said. "This time, Rocky killed Kim with prior calculation and design - and this time, he committed the ultimate act of possession and control."
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