21,000 Supporters Urge Alvin Bragg to Free Tracy McCarter

21,000 Supporters Urge Alvin Bragg to Free Tracy McCarter

21,000 Supporters Urge Alvin Bragg to Free Tracy McCarter

The Manhattan district attorney is prosecuting McCarter in the death of her estranged husband.


On a drizzly Monday morning, approximately 60 people rallied in New York City’s Foley Square. Amid chants of “Drop her charges,” “Free them all,” and “Black Lives Matter,” they were demanding that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg drop all charges against Tracy McCarter, who has been facing murder charges in the death of her estranged husband, Jim Murray.

While running for Manhattan district attorney, Bragg publicly tweeted his support for McCarter, stating, “Prosecuting a domestic violence survivor who acted in self-defense is unjust.” But since taking office in January 2022, his office continues to prosecute McCarter, after unsuccessful attempts to decrease the charges against her.

McCarter’s trial is scheduled to begin November 28.

Her supporters delivered to Bragg’s office more than 21,200 signatures on petitions urging him to drop all charges.

Solomon Acevedo attended Monday’s rally on behalf of Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Reminding the crowd that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, he called Bragg’s prosecution “a systemic issue in what we do when people survive domestic violence by any means.”

On March 2, 2020, McCarter had returned home from her hospital shift when her estranged husband, Jim Murray, rang her buzzer. The couple had been separated for seven months as Murray’s alcoholism spiraled out of control, leading to violence against McCarter. That rainy night, she let him into her apartment, planning to let him sleep it off on her couch. Instead, he demanded money. She refused. Murray became violent and McCarter grabbed a kitchen knife to ward him off. Murray ended up with a stab wound in his chest, from which he later died. McCarter was arrested and, because the assistant district attorney stated her intention to seek second-degree (or intentional) murder charges, held without bail. She was sent to Rikers Island, where she spent six months uncharged as the pandemic shut down all court proceedings, including grand jury hearings.

In September, a grand jury indicted her for second-degree murder. Shortly after, a judge allowed her release on electronic monitoring.

When asked for comment, Bragg’s press team pointed to his proposed plea deal in which McCarter would enter an Alford plea, which does not require an admission of guilt, for second-degree manslaughter and menacing. If she were not arrested during the next year, the manslaughter conviction would be vacated, leaving her only with menacing, which is a misdemeanor. The judge, Diane Kiesel, who authored a 906-page textbook on domestic violence and the law, stated that she would not accept either an Alford plea or a conditional discharge for a murder indictment.

In August, Bragg’s office submitted a motion to decrease the charges from second-degree murder to manslaughter. Kiesel denied that motion as well.

McCarter is not the only survivor facing prosecution for the death of an abusive loved one. In 2019, Poughkeepsie mother Nikki Addimando was convicted in the shooting death of her boyfriend Christopher Grover. She applied for a sentence reduction under New York’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, but despite her own and multiple other testimonies about the injuries Grover had inflicted on her, the judge denied her application and sentenced her to 19 years to life. She appealed and, in 2021, the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division reduced her sentence to seven and a half years.

More recently, in California, Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer pursued murder charges against Wendy Howard, a 53-year-old mother, in the shooting death of her ex-partner Kelly Pitts.

Years earlier, police had investigated Pitts for sexually abusing Howard’s older daughter, but the district attorney declined to press charges. At the time of his death, police were also investigating Pitts for sexually abusing the couple’s daughter.

At trial, both daughters testified about Pitts’s sexual abuse. Howard also testified in her defense. This past Friday, the jury acquitted her of first- and second-degree murder, but deadlocked 7-5 on whether she was guilty of voluntary manslaughter. That deadlock allows the prosecutor to try Howard again on that charge.

“We are relieved that she walks free today to be with her family,” Courtney Morris, an organizer with the Wendy Howard defense committee, told the local press after the verdict. “But she’s still in shackles. She is not free yet.”

“There’s no prosecutor who wants to be seen as ‘soft on crime,’” Leigh Goodmark, director of the University of Maryland’s Gender Violence Clinic, told The Nation. “They will tout their records with victims of violence. They will continue to insist that Wendy Howard and Tracy McCarter are not real victims. Our system has a victim-offender binary and you only get to be one of those things. If you are the defendant, you can’t be a victim. Prosecutors can’t—and won’t—see you that way.”

Both Addimando and Howard are white. McCarter’s deceased husband is white. McCarter is Black.

Black women experience domestic violence at a higher rate than white women. But, according to a 2016 study, prosecutors reduce domestic violence charges for white women more frequently than for women of color. As of 2020, Black women were also imprisoned at nearly twice the rate of their white counterparts.

“The criminal legal system has become another abuser to her,” Samah Sisay, a member of Survived and Punished and one of McCarter’s supporters, told the crowd. Bragg’s office, she continued, “floats the lie that it’s just the judge, not their office [pursuing charges against McCarter]. We’re here to call on the Manhattan district attorney and to say, ‘You have the power to drop the charges.’”

McCarter did not attend the rally, but told The Nation, “I am grateful that greater attention is being paid to the cases of criminalized survivors. If I am forced to stand trial for a crime I did not commit, it gives me hope that a jury will see the truth, and that I will soon be free.”

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