Tonawanda News

January 15, 2014

NT: Jury begins deliberations in Marchant trial

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — 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 a second-degree manslaughter 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 to Stone and judges her conduct 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, insisting that 911 recordings and witness accounts show that 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,” Hoffmann said. “That’s what initiated this.” 

Yet during his own 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, breaking locks to enter rooms she used as safe havens and twice pulling her hair before she stabbed him in self-defense, adding that his blood alcohol content at the time of his death was 0.285.  

“What kind of person throws somebody out of their own house?” Saraceno said of Stone. “What kind of person beats them up in their own house?”  

Saraceno also called into question a medical examiner’s report that the nearly 5-inch stab wound caused Stone’s death, stating that it only “nicked” the artery, a wound that worsened in a struggle with police - a stance he attempted to use to dismiss the case, which was denied by Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas. 

Hoffmann, who at one point pulled the knife used to kill Stone out of an evidence box, displaying it in a stabbing motion in front of 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 on Tuesday before court was called. They will begin deliberations again this morning.