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Illness, death no match for dream


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 24, 2001

Throughout his 22-year marriage, and over the course of raising two daughters and working full time as a Tampa firefighter and paramedic, Jack Barker chipped away at a bachelor's degree in business.

Barker doggedly pursued his goal, only slowing down when the hepatitis C he contracted on the job drained his energy.

In January, the disease suddenly took his life. He was 45, and one course short of his dream.

On Wednesday, Barker's goal was finally realized. Northwood University College, where he took extension classes for the past four years, awarded him a posthumous degree.

Barker's wife, Jinkey, and daughter C.C. attended the graduation ceremony in West Palm Beach and accepted the degree on his behalf.

The day held another significance for Jinkey: It was her birthday. She believes the timing was a gift from Jack.

"It's so him," she said.

MURDER, SHEA WROTE: After a career as an attorney, J. Michael Shea decided to try something many people have considered -- write a book.

He based his novel on a case he handled as a young lawyer. Shea defended Joseph Green Brown, accused of the 1973 rape and murder of Earlene Treva Barksdale, the mistress of well-known Tampa attorney, Fred Barksdale. Although Barksdale was married to someone else at the time, Earlene had two children by him and used his last name.

The prosecutor on Brown's case, Robert Bonanno (now a Hillsborough circuit judge), showed the jury a murder weapon, a .38-caliber handgun, even though he knew an FBI ballistics expert had determined the gun could not have fired the fatal bullet.

Brown remained on death row for more than 13 years and once came within 15 hours of execution. In 1986, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reversed Brown's murder and rape convictions, and found that prosecutors knowingly allowed and exploited false testimony from the state's key witness.

The book, The Penalty, is available for $16.95 on the Web site, TOUGH JOB, BUT . . . : Among the stack of letters sent to State Attorney Mark Ober, one caught the prosecutor's eye.

Actor Victoria Principal wrote recently about the killing of a wild boar during a broadcast by radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. Ober's office filed animal cruelty charges against Clem and three others in March for the killing.

Principal, you will recall, starred on the '80s television show Dallas, and used to do infomercials selling cosmetics to make women look more youthful.

Ever the dutiful public servant, Ober, 50, plans to personally call Principal to respond to her concerns.

- Got a tip? Times Staff Writer Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3386; David Karp is at (813) 226-3376.

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