This past Monday, Oct. 24, a rally was held at Foley Square demanding Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg drop the second degree murder charges against Tracy McCarter. The domestic abuse survivor is on trial for allegedly stabbing to death her estranged husband Jim Murray in self-defense on March 2, 2020 after enduring repeated violence at his hands.
Just two years ago, Bragg was a public proponent of McCarter’s, tweeting his support back in September 2020. At the time, he was running for office to replace his predecessor Cy Vance, who sought a murder conviction against McCarter. At Monday’s rally, advocates strongly felt Bragg wasn’t doing enough.
“What we’re hearing from the Manhattan D.A.’s office is that Tracy, after surviving various forms of violence, is now being punished because she dared to protect herself,” said Survived and Punished organizer/human rights attorney Samah Sisay. “The criminal legal system has become another form of abuser to her. Two years ago, when she was arrested, she was incarcerated in Rikers.
“She was held there without bail during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s a nurse. She is someone who dearly wanted to be with her family, but also wanted to be out here helping her community because that’s who she is.”
“While we’re here talking about our current D.A., we can’t forget that it was Cy Vance that indicted this case to begin with,” said Deputy Public Advocate for Justice, Health Equity and Safety Solomon Acevedo. “This is a systemic issue when it comes to what we do when people survive domestic violence by any means necessary.
“It’s a complicated issue and the problem that we’re having is that we don’t want to deal with it. We don’t want to deal with the fact that more often than not, it is Black women who are the ones who are being prosecuted for things like this disproportionately.”
An online petition to drop McCarter’s charges with over 21,000 signatures was delivered to Bragg’s office.
The motion-to-dismiss court document delineated Murray’s history with alcoholism, as well as McCarter’s claims of violence against her, which include repeated chokeholds and hair-pulling. Murray arrived at McCarter’s Upper Westside apartment drunk on the date of his death. Her neighbor overheard her yelling for him to “get the f- -k out.” He found McCarter attempting to aid an unresponsive Murray. A bloody kitchen knife was recovered from the scene. Murray was stabbed in the chest. McCarter dialed 911, and her neighbor helped her complete the call.
Since Bragg took office this year, attempts to resolve McCarter’s case without imprisonment were made. In May, an Alford plea agreement—where the defendant can maintain his or her innocence—was proposed for second degree counts of manslaughter and criminal menacing. A judge shot down the proposal, which would mandate McCarter to attend PTSD treatment, and upon completion with the added condition that she avoid re-arrest, the manslaughter conviction would be dismissed. A motion to dismiss was also denied by the judge. But the charges remain undropped.
“The dignity and wellbeing of survivors is at the center of the office’s work, and the Special Victims Division leadership supervising this case has deep experience in survivor-centered and trauma-informed practice,” said a spokesperson from the Manhattan D.A.’s office. “Because this case is open and pending, we will have to decline to comment.”
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And according to the Vera Institute of Justice, 77% of incarcerated women experienced intimate partner violence.
McCarter’s son, Justin, says he moved back with her and serves as her proxy. He says she’s received outpouring support. But it’s a tough situation.
“It’s difficult, for sure,” he said. “But she is holding on to that hope. And she’s not letting go. So she’s definitely struggling. But she’s persevering through it.”
There’s more to McCarter than just the case. She’s a mother and a grandmother. At the time of her arrest, she was a nurse and Ivy League grad student. But both pursuits were suspended after her husband’s killing.
“I guess the main takeaway I really get from this is that my mom’s a survivor,” added Justin McCarter. “She’s a victim. She’s not a perpetrator. And we just want an outcome that reflects that and for her to be able to move on with her life.
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://bit.ly/amnews1