Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Friday told a judge he was not moving forward with the prosecution of Tracy McCarter, a Harlem nurse charged with murdering her husband in a case that touched off a broad debate over domestic violence.
In a letter to state Supreme Court Judge Diane Kiesel, Bragg said a review of the evidence in McCarter’s case gave him reasonable doubt she fatally stabbed her husband, James Murray, on Mar. 2, 2020, with the requisite intent to support a murder conviction.
“[I] cannot in good conscious allow a prosecution to proceed to trial and ask a jury to reach a conclusion that I have not reached myself,” wrote Bragg.
“I make this decision with full awareness of the life that was taken in this tragic incident and the many people who are impacted by Ms. McCarter’s stabbing of Mr. Murray.”
McCarter’s case sparked a broad debate about domestic violence, with victim advocates demanding the charges against her be dropped.
“In the case of Tracy McCarter, you have a shining opportunity to rise to your highest aspirations for your tenure, and make good on the hope you instilled in so many when, in 2020, you tweeted “I #StandWithTracey,” on the grounds that “prosecuting a domestic violence survivor who acted in self-defense is unjust,” council member Tiffany Caban wrote in an Oct. 20 letter to Bragg.
According to court records, Murray had a documented history of domestic violence toward McCarter. The mother of four has maintained she stabbed him in self-defense after he showed up drunk at her Upper West Side apartment and ambushed her after demanding money.
At the time of the incident, McCarter, who has no criminal record, was employed as a nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and enrolled in a Columbia University master’s program. She called 911 and was performing CPR on Murray when the police arrived. She said they were living apart because of his untreated alcoholism.
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Bragg, who inherited the case from his predecessor Cyrus Vance, Jr., had expressed support for McCarter on the campaign trail. Domestic violence advocates have held his feet to the fire since he took office, pointing to a tweet in which he said, “I #StandWithTracey,” and that “prosecuting a domestic violence survivor who acted in self-defense is unjust.”
The letter comes after two failed efforts by Bragg’s office to try McCarter on lesser charges.
In May, Kiesel denied his office’s request to let McCarter plead down to manslaughter charges that would have been vacated after a year of mandated medical treatment. In August, the judge denied his office’s request to dismiss the charges and try her for manslaughter.
What happens next is unclear. Judge Kiesel has several options, including dismissing the case or referring it to Gov. Hochul to appoint a special prosecutor. She’s expected to address the matter at a hearing on Nov. 28.
McCarter’s lawyer Sean Hecker said the DA had “righted a grievous injustice.”
“Tracy McCarter is an innocent survivor of domestic violence who has suffered mightily from a criminal justice system that demands change,” he said.
The Manhattan DA’s office declined to comment.
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