Lawyers raise questions over body camera evidence in Manhattan “self-defense” murder case

Earlier this week, Tracy McCarter appeared in Manhattan court to find out whether a judge would dismiss the second degree murder indictment against her, as her attorneys raised questions about the NYPD body camera footage related to the case they claim to tell a different story. .

In March 2020, McCarter, a nurse at Weill-Cornell, was arrested for the death of her ex-husband, James Murray. The couple had been separated since July 2019 after Murray, who is white, repeatedly kicked, punched and strangled McCarter, who is black. By the time they separated, he had entered and exited rehab five times, although his alcohol use and violence escalated.

Murray was drunk when he came to McCarter’s Upper West Side apartment after locking himself out of his Airbnb apartment, according to court documents. Once inside, according to court documents, he demanded money to buy more alcohol from McCarter. She was then attacked by Murray, according to court documents, and pushed against a mirror that nearly fell on them. McCarter allegedly picked up a knife and held it out in front of her to stop further assaults. But, according to the documents, Murray kept advancing towards her.

“The knife penetrated the upper right part of Mr. Murray’s chest,” according to court documents. When the police arrived, McCarter was performing CPR. Murray was taken to hospital, where he died.

The question is whether McCarter, whom his lawyers claim to be a victim of domestic violence, can claim self-defense against their abusive partner. The case caught the attention of upcoming Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who initially announced his support for McCarter.

McCarter was arrested and held without bail for six months on Rikers Island despite the prison’s recurring COVID-19 outbreaks. Meanwhile, the pandemic has closed all courtrooms, including grand jury hearings. It wasn’t until September 2020 that prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office brought McCarter’s case to a grand jury, which charged her with second degree murder and manslaughter. Two days later, McCarter was returned to house arrest and electronic surveillance.

In 2021, McCarter’s attorneys filed multiple motions, including one to dismiss the indictment because Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Sara Sullivan ruled out McCarter’s statement to police that Murray had him. assaulted.

In another petition, they argued that one of the responding officers wrote in his police report that McCarter admitted to stabbing Murray. But a transcript of body camera footage from other responding agents, as reviewed by Gothamist, revealed that while several agents used the word “stabbed” when speaking to each other, McCarter herself was never heard saying it. word.

Nonetheless, in his requests for at least three search warrants on McCarter’s home and electronics, Sullivan included one of the officer’s statements that said “she spoke to Tracey. [sic] McCarter and Ms McCarter said in essence: “I let him stay the night, I tried to help him, he tried to grab my purse and I stabbed him in the chest.”

But McCarter’s attorneys claim their client never made this statement. They also note that when asked about the different wording of her search warrant requests, Sullivan told two members of McCarter’s defense team that she needed to “refresh” the officer’s memory.

This is not the first time that a prosecutor’s office has been accused of withholding body camera footage to discharge. In October 2021, a Staten Island judge overturned Jason Serrano’s conviction in 2018, after body camera footage showed officers planting marijuana in Serrano’s car, which led to his bogus arrest. Richmond County prosecutors did not turn over the footage to Serrano’s defense team until months after he pleaded guilty to avoiding being sent to Rikers.

When asked to comment, Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Cy Vance forwarded Sullivan’s response, in which she argued that, because McCarter did not make the alleged statement during the interview. police questioning, the prosecutor was not required to present other facts to support his defense.

READ MORE: After six months on Rikers, nurse is charged with murder in case she says is in self-defense

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