Local News

Victim's Family, Friends, Outraged by Plea Bargain Sentencing

Posted October 1, 2000

— A judge in Franklin County sentenced a man for murder Monday. It is the second time the man has been convicted of murder. After he serves his time, he could walk the streets again.

Corey Barton was sentenced to 23 to 28 years in prison after pleading guilty to beating his estranged girlfriend to death on November 15, 1998.

Investigators say Barton beat Sally Harris to death with a piece of their baby's crib, and left their 6-month-old son, Christopher, on the floor of their mobile home. The baby, who was not found until the next day, was unharmed.

Barton pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, but some people are angry that he was able to plead down his capital murder charge to a second-degree murder conviction.

Friends and family of the victim are also upset with the sentence because it is not the first time Barton has admitted killing someone.

Barton served half of an 18-year sentence for killing a Connecticut girl in 1983.

The victim, 16-year-old Shari Ann Merton, had been beaten and stabbed. Barton was released for good behavior 10 years into his 18-year sentence.

Merton's family came to Barton's sentencing hearing in Franklin County, hoping for an opportunity to speak before Judge Robert Hobgood.

"What is it going to take? Society has to get so angry, and they have to beat down their politician's doors and say get these laws changed -- change the plea bargaining and let's get on with business," says the victim's father, Gary Merton.

The family of Barton's latest victim says the punishment, again, is too light.

"It's complete injustice. We feel thatthis man should be put to death, and he shouldn't even have the opportunity to take another breath," says relative Holly Harris. "He shouldn't have gotten out the first time, and now, when I'm 55, or so, he will be walking the streets again."

District Attorney David Waters says the Harris family approved the plea agreement with Barton, and by law, the judge has to stay within certain sentencing guidelines.

This was the maximum sentence possible under the circumstances. Barton could get out of prison as early as 2021 when he will be 56 years old.

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