LOCKPORT – A Niagara County Court jury of 10 men and two women will resume deliberations this morning in the trial of Jennifer R. Marchant, the North Tonawanda woman who stabbed her boyfriend to death.
Marchant’s attorney, Dominic Saraceno, argued Tuesday that Marchant stabbed Ralph D. Stone Jr., 24, to defend herself against a drunken rage.
Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann countered that Marchant, 24, had no legal justification for knifing Stone in the bathroom of her apartment on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda on the night of Feb. 6.
The prosecution dropped a second-degree manslaughter count against Marchant before Tuesday’s summations.
That left the jury dealing only with first-degree manslaughter: whether Marchant meant to inflict serious physical injury on Stone, leading to his death, without justification as an act of self-defense. If she is convicted, Marchant faces a sentencing range of five to 25 years in prison.
Second-degree manslaughter is defined as recklessly causing death, and Hoffman told County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas, “I don’t believe there’s a reasonable interpretation of the evidence that would lead to a reckless (determination).”
Saraceno asserted that the prosecution can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Marchant didn’t act in self-defense.
He urged the jury to conclude that Marchant “honestly feared for her life, and that her fear or belief was reasonable.”
Saraceno added, “Based on how drunk, violent and irrational Ralph was acting, how could her fear be anything but reasonable?”
He said Marchant was being chased around the apartment by her drunken, 220-pound boyfriend. Dr. Tara Mahar, of the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office, said a post-mortem blood test showed Stone’s blood alcohol content was 0.285 percent.
According to testimony during the trial, Marchant weighed 240 pounds, but Saraceno told the jury, “Ms. Marchant may not be a petite woman, but you can tell she doesn’t have much muscle. She’s no match for a 220-pound man.”
But Hoffmann argued that Marchant was the aggressor, saying that she got Stone “all riled up” by confronting him as he was texting on his cellphone and asking if he was texting another woman.
The prosecutor added that during what Marchant told police was a chase through the apartment, only Marchant grabbed a weapon: a long knife from a butcher block on the kitchen table.
Marchant told police she stabbed Stone after he repeatedly pulled her hair in the bathroom and said, “Stab me. Be the boss.”
“When someone pulls your hair, you have the right to stab them? That’s the question in this case,” Hoffmann told the jury.
Officer Timothy Sylvester, who entered the apartment moments after the stabbing, said Marchant and Stone were clinching in the bathroom, and Stone had his back to him. But Hoffmann contended that Stone was originally backed into the corner, basing her argument on a blood spatter pattern on the wall.
Most of the blood ended up on the kitchen floor, after Sylvester said Stone lunged at him, and he took Stone down with the aid of Officer Robert Frank.
“It took two cops to subdue him, and that was with a chest wound,” Saraceno said.
“What Officer Sylvester interpreted as a lunge was Ralph Stone stumbling out of the bathroom,” Hoffmann told the jury. “The medical examiner told you he would have had a few moments of purposeful motion.”
Saraceno questioned whether the knife wound, which Mahar measured as 4ß inches deep, was the cause of death.
He argued to the jury that the knife must have only “nicked” an artery, the blood might have been clotting, and an elevated heart rate and Stone’s being tackled by police jarred that clot loose, causing Stone to bleed to death.
Hoffmann said the evidence for Saraceno’s contention was “none, zero.” He asked the jury, “What is the natural result of plunging a knife into a man’s chest?”