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NY Nurse Gets Charge of Killing Spouse Dropped With Pro Bono Help

When New York City nurse Tracy McCarter was charged with second-degree murder for fatally stabbing her allegedly abusive husband in 2020, the indictment was all too common, especially in New York, where one-third of women imprisoned for homicide were abused by the person they killed. McCarter's case became a cause for activists against domestic violence. Within days of her arrest, she obtained a team of pro bono lawyers. The defense team sought a deal with prosecutors, arguing that McCarter acted in self-defense and urging Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to dismiss the charges, reports Reuters. “This case should never have been charged as a murder case,” said lawyer Sean Hecker, who led the way in assembling the defense team. Amid the public pressure and domestic violence organizations that sent letters, signed petitions and staged rallies urging the DA to back down, plea bargain attempts fell short.


Bragg asked the court last month to dismiss the case, telling Supreme Court Justice Diane Kiesel, “I cannot proceed to trial on a charge that I do not believe in." On Friday, Kiesel granted the request, albeit reluctantly. Prosecutors could still bring lesser manslaughter charges against McCarter. A Bragg spokeswoman, Emily Tuttle, said the office is "examining our options, discussing with defense counsel, and expect to reach a conclusion" within 60 days. McCarter said her husband, James Murray, showed up at her home drunk and demanding money. Considering his history of abusive behavior, she picked up a kitchen knife in self-defense. He stumbled, accidentally falling on the blade, McCarter said. Sanctuary for Families, a New York nonprofit that aids victims of domestic violence, reached out to Hecker soon after McCarter’s March 3, 2020, arraignment about taking on her case. Hecker said he’d worked with the organization before but that he knew he “didn’t have the bandwidth” to do it alone. He turned to friends, tapping lawyers Jacob Buchdahl, Jeffrey Brown and Tess Cohen, who is running for Bronx District Attorney. Ultimately, Bragg said he had reasonable doubt as to whether McCarter stabbed Murray with the degree of intent required for a second-degree murder conviction.

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