Manhattan D.A. Said This Woman Acted in Self-Defense. He Prosecuted Her For Almost a Year Anyway.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has spent the better part of the last year prosecuting a woman for murder. There’s a catch: He publicly expressed, multiple times, that he didn’t believe it was a murder.
It’s an odd scenario for a prosecutor to put himself in. But for Tracy McCarter, the New York woman who in March 2020 killed her abusive, estranged husband, James Murray, it was more than odd. Bragg explicitly campaigned for office on her innocence, calling the killing “self-defense.” And though the evidence would appear to corroborate that assertion, he instead continued the prosecution he promised to end, subjecting McCarter to restrictive bail conditions and proceeding toward a trial.
That changed late last week. “After carefully reviewing all the evidence and extensively discussing this matter with members of my office, I have a reasonable doubt of whether Ms. McCarter stabbed Mr. Murray with the requisite intent to support a conviction of murder in the second degree,” Bragg wrote in a letter to Justice Diane Kiesel of the New York State Supreme Court. “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.”
It’s the right move. But Bragg’s latter admission lays bare just how bizarre it is that it took him so long to formally arrive at a conclusion he very publicly arrived at years ago. “I #StandWithTracy,” he tweeted in September 2020, linking to an article about McCarter’s six-month pre-trial stint on Rikers Island, arguably the most notoriously violent jail in the United States. “Prosecuting a domestic violence survivor who acted in self-defense is unjust.” The evidence, in some sense, is pretty cut and dry; it includes Murray’s arrests for domestic violence, a 2018 email where he admitted to assaulting McCarter, and a video from the following year where a naked and drunk Murray is seen attacking her.
So it’s difficult to know why Bragg, whose office declined to comment further, gave McCarter the tough-on-crime treatment. But it’s a question worth exploring, particularly when considering that this is the same prosecutor who ascended to office promising to put an end to mass incarceration, to reform bail policies, and to not overcharge. “JUST
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