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Niagara DA won't appeal dismissal of manslaughter conviction

Jennifer Marchant is in the clear.

After her conviction for killing her boyfriend was overturned by an appellate court that said she acted in self-defense, Niagara County District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek said Friday she cannot legally appeal the decision to the state's highest court.

The appellate court majority said the jury verdict of first-degree manslaughter for the killing of Ralph D. Stone Jr. was "against the weight of the evidence."

The  court's use of that phrase, based on analysis of the facts, makes the decision unappealable under New York State law,  Wojtaszek said.

"The Court of Appeals reviews issues of law and is generally precluded from reviewing issues of fact," Wojtaszek said in a statement. "My office has explored all available appellate options for this case and has determined that we are not in a position to make application to the Court of Appeals."

If an appeal had been possible, Marchant could have been sent back to prison to finish her sentence, but that won't happen now.

"I am happy that I will remain free, that the case will be closed and I'm ready to have a peaceful and successful life," Marchant told The Buffalo News by text message.

When Marchant was freed Aug. 2, Stone's mother, Michelle Stone, told reporters, "I just think it's horrifying. Justice was not served. She got away with murder."

Marchant, now 28, a onetime Internet pornography performer, stabbed Stone once in the chest with a kitchen knife during a confrontation Feb. 2, 2013, in the bathroom of Marchant's apartment on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.

Both Stone and Marchant had been drinking, but Stone's post-mortem showed a .285 percent blood alcohol level, more than 3 1/2 times the legal threshold for intoxication. That was far higher than Marchant's .06 percent reading in a breath test a few hours after the killing.

Onetime porn performer 'absolutely stunned' by overturned manslaughter conviction

Stone was unarmed, but had been chasing Marchant around the apartment. He forced open the bedroom and bathroom doors to get at her, according to her statement to police.

Stone called 911 during the last few minutes of his life, apparently to report Marchant had been drinking in violation of the terms of her probation for a drunken driving conviction. But he hung up on the operator.

When the dispatcher called back, Stone said if a police officer came to the apartment, "There would be trouble."

An officer arrived just as Stone was stabbed.

According to Marchant's statement, Stone grabbed her by the hair in the bathroom, and his last words were, "Stab me. Be the boss. Stab me."

Marchant contended she acted in self-defense, but the Niagara County Court jury that convicted her rejected that claim. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Three of the five appellate judges, however, agreed with Marchant that she stabbed Stone in self-defense.

Judge reluctantly gives Marchant 12 years in prison for killing boyfriend

At the sentencing in March 2014, County Judge Sara Sheldon stated that a probation officer's presentencing report quoted the three investigating officers as saying they all felt Marchant killed Stone in self-defense. Sheldon quoted Lt. Karen Smith as saying, "It's a shame she was found guilty."

New York law is considered highly restrictive on self-defense. It allows a person to use deadly physical force only if she reasonably believes such force is about to be used against her and she can't get away.

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