Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

January 15, 2014

Marchant guilty of manslaughter

By Michael Regan
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A North Tonawanda woman was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter Wednesday in Niagara County Court for killing her boyfriend last year in her Oliver Street apartment. 

Jennifer R. Marchant, 24, may spend up to 25 years in prison after she is sentenced March 26, one year after she was freed on $100,000 bail for stabbing Ralph D. Stone once in his chest. 

After nearly two hours of deliberation Tuesday, it took only minutes Wednesday for the jury of 10 men and two women to render a decision. Marchant was handcuffed and remanded to Niagara County Jail after the verdict.

The six-day trial included the testimony of three police officers who entered Marchant's second-floor apartment the evening of Feb. 6, moments after she stabbed Stone. He died in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor shortly after the officers' arrival. 

Witnesses said Stone and several friends began partying in Marchant's apartment at 2:30 p.m. that day. Toxicology reports showed his blood alcohol content was 0.285 percent at the time of his death. 

Marchant, who under the name "Scarlett Rouge" spent time performing Internet pornography, had admitted to grabbing a knife from a butcher block in her kitchen and inflicting the wound, but said it was in self-defense. She claimed Stone chased her around the apartment, broke through locked doors and twice pulled her hair. 

Her claim was not enough to prevent the conviction, which was at least partly based on the jury's finding that Marchant did not face the possibility of deadly bodily harm, a key factor in a first-degree manslaughter charge.  

Marchant's attorney, Dominic Saraceno, said the verdict was the result of weak domestic violence laws in New York state compared to those in places like Florida, where the "Stand Your Ground" law might have negated the manslaughter charge. 

"You don't have the same set of laws," he said. "In New York you have to work to prove you were going to be killed." 

Marchant initially faced a single charge of murder, which was later reduced by a grand jury to two counts of manslaughter. 

Niagara County Deputy District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann on Monday moved to dismiss one of those counts, a second-degree manslaughter charge, because there was not enough evidence that the Stone's death was an act of recklessness. 

During closing arguments Tuesday, however, Hoffmann cast Marchant as the aggressor in Stone's demise, noting that when police arrived to a grisly scene, the door to the apartment was open, suggesting Marchant could have escaped rather than use deadly force to subdue a drunk Stone as he pulled her hair in the bathroom. 

Saraceno said blood spattered on the back of the bathroom door showed the door was closed when the incident took place, which fell in line with accounts given by Marchant to North Tonawanda police detectives as they interviewed her two hours after Stone's death. 

Hoffmann offered Marchant a plea deal this past August that would have capped her sentence at 15 years. Saraceno said he will push Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas to sentence Marchant to five years, the minimum in New York state for a first-degree manslaughter conviction.