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March 21, 2006

Deaf man sentenced in prison stabbing

From: Indianapolis Star - United States - Mar 21, 2006

Associated Press

ANDERSON, Ind. -- A judge ordered a 30-year sentence for a man convicted this month of fatally stabbing a fellow prison inmate 13 years ago.

Ralph Barnett, 53, asked for a shortened sentence on the voluntary manslaughter conviction because of his health problems, including deafness which forced him to read testimony during his trial and at Monday's sentencing hearing.

"The fact is I can't hear," he said. "I was unable to assist my attorney during the trial."

Madison Superior Court Judge Thomas Newman had turned down Barnett's request that the county pay for a $60,000 operation aimed at restoring his hearing so he could understand his trial.

Barnett had faced a possible sentence of 50 years, but Newman gave him a shorter sentenced based on his health problems and that he was provoked into attacking convicted burglar Ricky Combs, 28, of Austin, in January 1993 at the Pendleton Correctional Facility.

Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said he had decided against requesting the maximum sentence.

"This is not the same guy who committed this crime 13 years ago," Cummings said of Barnett.

Newman turned down a defense motion to dismiss the conviction on the grounds that Barnett did not have the chance to properly defend himself after his arrest last August.

"The state listed numerous witnesses in 1993," defense attorney Bryan Williams said. "We were unable to reach many of these witnesses, some have died."

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