Nearly 20 years after being widowed, Paula Henry will be in court again Friday to fight a lawsuit brought by her husband’s killer.
He’s trying to move forward with the suit, which was originally dismissed, after a law protecting Henry from it was ruled unconstitutional earlier this year.
“We’re back at it,” Henry said Tuesday. “I’m disappointed, but as time goes by, I’m stronger.”
Her husband, Robert Henry, was fatally shot by Larry Shandola in Tacoma on Sept. 11, 1995, a conviction for which Shandola is serving a 31-year prison sentence. Prosecutors said he killed Henry in the parking lot of North Coast Electric Co., where Henry was an executive, because Henry sued him for punching him in the mouth at a New Year’s Eve party.
From behind bars, Shandola then served his victim’s wife with a suit of his own in 2013, because she and several others wrote in letters to the state Department of Corrections that Shandola shouldn’t be allowed to serve his sentence in Canada, where he was born and where he’d be closer to his family.
He alleges she violated his privacy rights and meant to emotionally distress him.
“He is a prisoner who, in prison, feels victimized,” Henry said. “Unbelievable.”
Pierce County Superior Court Judge Garold Johnson agreed to dismiss the action in 2013 as a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” which meant it violated state law that prevented frivolous lawsuits meant to silence free expression.
However, the Washington Supreme Court declared that law unconstitutional in May in an unrelated case, unanimously saying that it violated the right to trial by jury by requiring judges instead to make decisions about disputed facts in a case.
Henry’s attorney, John Ladenburg Sr., said Shandola immediately filed a motion after that ruling to have the dismissal of his suit vacated.
“We kind of hoped he wouldn’t notice,” Ladenburg said about the Supreme Court decision.
It’s expensive to fight such a lawsuit, Henry and her attorney said. Ladenburg estimates his firm donated time worth about $10,000 last year working on the case.
He said he’ll make motions to dismiss the lawsuit on other grounds.
“We’re going to say he has no right to privacy in a prison setting,” Ladenburg said. “We’re saying you can’t get emotional distress from someone telling the truth about you.”
Henry helped get a state law passed that requires judges to review lawsuits such as Shandola’s before they are sent to victims or victims’ families, but it does not retroactively affect her case.
She said she’s also working toward a similar law at the federal level.
“We’re making a positive difference out of all his negativeness,” Henry said.
How to help
To donate toward Paula Henry’s legal fees, visit gofundme.com/paula-henry-fund.