Jurors Weigh Loyalty Vs. Evidence in Samurai Sword Attack Trial

Karla Barba outside of Queens Supreme Court. Pool photo by Ellis Kaplan

Karla Barba outside of Queens Supreme Court. Pool photo by Ellis Kaplan

By Christina Carrega

Two years after a domestic dispute inside a Jackson Heights apartment turned bloody, the victim minimized his near-fatal injuries to try to save his former flame from a quarter-century behind bars.

Assistant District Attorney Mary Kate Quinn reminded the jury not to let sympathy inform their decision on the fate of Karla Barba, who is charged with first-degree assault for slicing her ex-boyfriend Franklin Larrea’s arm with a samurai sword on June 8, 2016.

“Franklin Larrea's loyalty is to her, but yours is to the law,” Quinn said during the closing arguments in the trial Friday afternoon.

Barba, 40, faces up to 25 years in prison for allegedly grabbing a samurai sword and carving two chunks of flesh from Larrea's right arm. The gruesome wounds led to extreme blood loss, which could have killed Larrea, two first-responders testified early in the trial.

“The evidence is overwhelming that she intentionally caused serious, physical injury,” Quinn said.

The jury began deliberating in Queens Supreme Court on Friday afternoon.

Both Barba and Larrea testified that the attack was “an accident.” Barba, herself a survivor of domestic violence, said she grabbed the first item she could get her hands on after Larrea pushed her to the ground during an argument.

That item turned out to be a decorative samurai sword, which was at first secured in its protective cover. After striking Larrea with the sheathed weapon, the cover fell off, exposing the razor-sharp blade.

Larrea also told the jury that he had pushed Barba to the floor, frightening her and provoking her response. Quinn said that testimony ran counter to Larrea’s earlier statements.

“He made this up to protect her,” Quinn said.

Larrea told the jurors he asked Barba to stop, but she didn't listen. Her second and third strikes split Larrea’s forearm and wrist, leaving his skin “peeled back like a banana” and blood pouring like a waterfall, according to trial testimony.

Quinn said the notion that the sheath simply fell off between blows doesn’t make sense.

“If you're holding the sword by the sheath and the sheath falls off then she would be holding the sheath, not the sword. The sword would fall to the ground,” Quinn pointed out for the jurors.

Before Larrea retreated into his 12-year-old son's bedroom, Barba struck him a third time on his right wrist as he raised the already injured arm to block the sword from cutting his face.

“Three unlucky accidents where she hits her target every time is not an accident,” Quinn said.

Larrea's son called 911 and Larrea, bleeding profusely, fled the apartment to seek help from downstairs neighbors.

“My mom is going to kill my dad,” Larrea's son told authorities who arrived at the scene.

In order to save Larrea's life, doctors performed an emergency blood transfusion, so urgent in fact, there there was no time to match the blood type, according to trial testimony.

Quinn said Barba did not show appropriate remorse for the attack.

“Look at her reaction. If you accidentally injured the love of your life who gave you a child you'll try to help, you apologize,” Quinn said. “You caused him to bleed uncontrollably and you do nothing?”

“Fucking liar,” whispered Larrea as he sat in court on Friday, cradling the couple’s daughter.

More than two years after the incident, Larrea stood by Barba’s side, telling jurors that the pain wasn't as serious as it seemed based on the severity of the wounds. He said he didn't even know he had been cut twice.

Barba's defense attorney Stacey Richman conceded that her client reacted poorly.

“Not to make a pun in this situation but she's not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” Richman said. “She reacted badly. She could have reacted better.”

Ultimately, the jurors will determine whether Barba intentionally caused Larrea’s injuries or whether it was indeed “an accident.”

“What she grabbed was smooth, not a sharp object. This is all in seconds,” Richman said. “She couldn't conceive that she will cut him in this way … Her objective wasn't to cause these injuries, this was a moment reaction.”