Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

January 15, 2014

NT: Jury begins deliberations in Marchant trial

By Michael Regan michael.regan@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Closing arguments were presented Tuesday in Niagara County Court in the manslaughter trial of Jennifer R. Marchant, while the jury began deliberations with a possible verdict expected to be reached as early as today. 

Marchant was facing first and second-degree manslaughter charges after she admitted to stabbing her boyfriend, Ralph D. Stone, on Feb. 6 in her North Tonawanda apartment.

Marchant now faces only one charge of first-degree manslaughter, however, after Niagara County Deputy District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann moved to dismiss the second-degree count Tuesday due to a lack of evidence that the death was reckless.

A conviction on the remaining charge requires proof that Marchant, 24, intended to inflict serious bodily harm on Stone and judges her conduct on the night leading up to his death.  

During closing arguments Hoffmann attempted to cast Marchant as the aggressor, stating that it was an argument over a text message that led her to stab Stone, cutting his pulmonary artery and causing him to bleed out. 

She also questioned the claims of Marchant’s defense attorney Dominic Saraceno that the incident was a result of Stone’s level of intoxication and an act of self-defense. Hoffman insisted that 911 recordings and witness accounts show the fight lasted just three minutes between a volley of 911 calls from Stone’s cell phone and the arrival of police at the Oliver Street apartment.  

“Jennifer was jealous,” she said. “That’s what initiated this.” 

During his closing argument, Saraceno said it was Stone who began a room-by-room fight during which he demanded Marchant leave the apartment where she lived alone, broke locks to enter rooms she used as safe havens and twice pulled her hair before she stabbed him in self-defense.

Stone’s blood alcohol content at the time of his death was 0.285 percent, Saraceno added.

“What kind of person throws somebody out of their own house?” he asked rhetorically. “What kind of person beats them up in their own house?”

Saraceno also called into question a medical examiner’s report indicating that the nearly 5-inch stab wound caused Stone’s death, stating that the knife only “nicked” the artery and the wound was worsened in a struggle with police. That’s the argument he made while trying to get the case dismissed, but it was rejected by Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas. 

Hoffmann, who at one point pulled the knife used to kill Stone out of an evidence box and displayed it in a stabbing motion to the jury, said the medical examiner’s testimony Monday clearly backed the theory that the knife caused the cut to the artery and Stone’s death. 

“The injury in Ralph Stone’s case was caused by this,” she said, brandishing the knife. “Would a reasonable person have made that decision?” 

The jury of 10 men and two women deliberated for nearly two hours Tuesday before court was ended for the day. They will begin deliberations again this morning.