Tracy McCarter Recounts Being Jailed, Then Cleared, For Killing Abusive Husband

For the first time since she was released from prison last December, registered nurse and graduate student Tracy McCarter described her journey through the criminal justice system.

The mother of four was jailed after she fatally stabbed her then-husband, James Murray, in March 2020. McCarter said it was self-defense, and that she was a victim of abuse from an alcoholic spouse.

Last December, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg declined to charge McCarter with second-degree murder, leading to a judge dropping the charges.

McCarter spoke with Democracy Now during National Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, about the seven months she spent in Rikers Island and how race played a role in her punishment.

“I didn’t think of myself as Black and Jim as white. I was just a person who loved Jim,” McCarter said. “A few months into being at Rikers, I remember being on the phone with a friend, and I said to her, ‘Oh my god, I’m still here because Jim is white.’ They don’t see me as a nurse. They don’t see me as a person who had loving relationships with people, who was a good mother, who had never been in trouble. I was simply being viewed as a Black woman who had killed a white man.”

McCarter added that after her arrest, she requested bail and showed Assistant District Attorney Sara Sullivan a video of Murray yelling at her and pulling her hair in a separate incident. However, according to McCarter, Sullivan dismissed the footage.

She was denied bail and sent to Rikers Island during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“And so, it just became clear to me that I wasn’t going to be considered a person whose life was important enough to defend,” McCarter said. “As Mariame Kaba, a very famous abolitionist and activist in this work, tells us, we don’t have selves to defend us, you know, Brown and Black women. And the court makes that very clear.”

Six months after she was in prison, McCarter’s family contacted journalist Victoria Law, who wrote a story on the abuse she endured and her arrest. McCarter also had thousands of supporters who rallied for the nurse and hounded Bragg for his lack of action regarding McCarter.

Bragg offered McCarter a plea deal that she eventually agreed to but that was rejected by Judge Diane Kiesel, who deemed it illegal.

After McCarter’s release, Murray’s brother Steven wrote a letter to Bragg, saying the D.A. betrayed his family by not charging McCarter.

Since her release, McCarter has graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree. She was awarded the Truthout Center for Grassroots Journalism’s Keeley Schenwar Memorial Essay Prize for her essay, “As a Black Woman Accused of Killing a White Man, I Was Never Innocent Until Proven Guilty.”