Tracy McCarter, a Weill-Cornell nurse and mother of four, has been held at Rikers Island without bail for six months during the devastating COVID-19 pandemic after being accused of murder in connection with an act that she and her supporters have argued was self-defense.
McCarter, 44, is accused of fatally stabbing her estranged husband—James Murray—back in early March when he showed up drunk at her apartment. According to a regional NBC News report at the time, McCarter, who is Black, and Murray, a white man, had been separated due to what attorney Frank Rothman noted was Murray's extended history of "violent behavior and alcohol abuse."
Murray is said to have demanded money upon entering the apartment, ultimately becoming "abusive" and attempting to take her purse.
After stabbing Murray, Rothman explained, McCarter called 911 and began to administer first aid.
"This is a strong case of self-defense," Rothman told the court at the time.
In a new Gothamist piece by Victoria Law published Wednesday, McCarter detailed the conditions she's faced while being held without bail. While she's been able to avoid contracting COVID-19, which remains a serious concern for those incarcerated during the pandemic due to poor living conditions, McCarter expressed frustration at not being able to put her nursing skills to good use at such a dire time.
"You just feel so helpless," she said. "You know one more person would make a difference."
McCarter also pointed to instances of bafflingly inadequate pandemic response efforts, with those detained initially only given a single disposable mask for the duration of their time. More recently, the report notes, those detained are able to "trade their masks for new ones." Still, many on the staff aren't properly utilizing masks.
The new report also includes mention of District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.'s office forward a copy of the criminal complaint against McCarter, as well as comments from Assistant District Attorney Sara Sullivan that were given during a bail hearing in August. Sullivan, per the report, has claimed there was violence "on both sides."
McCarter's attorneys, meanwhile, maintain that she acted in self-defense against an act of abuse from someone with a history of such behavior.
"This is not a murder case and Ms. McCarter does not belong at Rikers," Sean Hecker of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, Jacob Buchdahl of Susan Godfrey, and Jeffrey Brown of Dechert said in a joint statement.
A grand jury hearing is set for Thursday.
With renewed attention on the case, many are stepping up with messages of support for McCarter, as well as calls for local leaders to take a stand against the practice of pursuing a murder charge against someone they argue acted in self-defense. Petitions have also been launched, including this one calling on healthcare professionals to stand together in support of the pursuit of all charges against McCarter being dropped. There's also a Fundrazr page set up by one of her daughters.