A Manhattan judge on Friday dismissed murder charges against nurse Tracy McCarter, who claims she acted in self-defense when she stabbed her abusive husband to death.
State Supreme Court Justice Diane Kiesel’s decision is the latest development in the saga that began with McCarter’s arrest on second-degree murder charges more than two years ago after James Murray’s stabbing inside her Upper West Side apartment. She has become a poster child in the debate about criminalizing victims of domestic violence.
“I am innocent. And I am devastated that on March 2, 2020, a man whom I loved lost his life. We were both the victims of the cruel disease of alcoholism,” McCarter said in a statement to the Daily News.
“Dismissing the unjust charge against me can’t give back what I’ve lost, but I am relieved that this nightmare will finally be over, and I am determined to thrive once again.”
McCarter says Murray tried to strangle her when he showed up at her Amsterdam Ave. apartment drunk, aggressive, and demanding money. She said he suffered a fatal chest wound during a struggle as she held a kitchen knife in a defensive stance.
The request to drop the charges came from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who faced intense public pressure to hold faithful to a campaign promise to drop the case. McCarter’s supporters accused him of reneging after his election.
Kiesel’s ruling, which is scathing in tone, came instead of allowing the case to proceed to trial immediately or sending it to Gov. Hochul to appoint a special prosecutor, among other legal remedies.
Finding “no compelling reason” to dismiss the case apart from Bragg’s “unwillingness to proceed,” Kiesel said her decision was not based on the merits. She said it did not prevent the DA from seeking a new indictment for first degree manslaughter and paused sealing the case for 60 days to give Bragg time to “exercise those options.”
“[McCarter] may be a victim of serious domestic violence,” wrote Kiesel. “She may have been faced with deadly force … and could have been justified in stabbing her husband to death to protect herself. If so, she committed no crime. But sufficient questions of fact surround this case, crying out for the opportunity to be answered at a trial
A mother of four, McCarter was not living with Murray when he died. He was battling alcoholism and living between apartments, according to his family. He had a documented history of violence against McCarter, according to court records, having physically assaulted her as recently as July 2019.
There were no witnesses of the stabbing. According to court records, McCarter’s neighbors heard Murray banging on doors and McCarter yelling at him not to take her purse.
McCarter, whose first arrest was for her husband’s killing, worked as a nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and was enrolled in a Columbia master’s degree program at the time of the incident. She contacted 911 and was performing CPR on Murray when authorities arrived.