By DAVE COLLINS, Associated Press
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) _ James Carter II’s killing of his ex-girlfriend wasn’t a spur of the moment emotional act but a planned event preceded by numerous acts signaling his intent to murder her, a prosecutor told a Connecticut jury Friday in a case that helped spur changes to the state’s domestic violence laws.
Carter is charged with murder and violating a restraining order in the stabbing death of 25-year-old graduate student Tiana Notice outside her Plainville apartment on Valentine’s Day 2009. A jury heard closing arguments and was expected to begin deliberations later Friday. Carter faces up to 65 years in prison if convicted of both charges.
Prosecutor Paul Rotiroti disputed the defense argument that Carter was so emotionally disturbed at the time that he couldn’t have intended her death, a vital element in proving a murder charge. Rotiroti told the jury Carter knew exactly was he was doing.
“It’s the oldest motive in the world. If he couldn’t have her, nobody could have her,” Rotiroti said. “He was planning this all along. … Tragically he completed his mission. His mission was murder.”
Public defender Christopher Eddy told the jury that Carter, of Bloomfield, had a lot of stress in his life at the time because of the breakup with Notice, his inability to find a job and a child custody dispute with another woman. Eddy said Carter was suicidal in the days leading up to the stabbing.
“He snapped. That’s the only way you can look at this,” Eddy said.
In the middle of Eddy’s closing argument, the 31-year-old Carter started crying and stood up at the defense table, prompting marshals to grab him and take him out of the courtroom. Judge Frank D’Addabbo excused the jury for several minutes and told Eddy to caution Carter about his behavior. Carter chose not to return to the courtroom for the remainder of the arguments, and the judge told the jury to ignore Carter’s conduct.
Eddy asked the jury to find that Carter suffered “extreme emotional disturbance,” which is a legal defense to a murder charge. If jurors agree with Eddy, they could find Carter guilty instead of first-degree manslaughter, which carries up to 20 years in prison. Murder carries up to 60 years in prison. The defense didn’t contest that Carter killed Notice.
Authorities said Notice was stabbed 18 times.
The case was one of several violent acts in Connecticut that prompted state lawmakers to approve tougher laws against domestic violence the past two years.
The new laws including allowing electronic monitoring of domestic violence offenders, requiring police to arrest people who commit a family violence crime against someone they are dating, expanding the list of crimes for which a judge can issue criminal protective orders and requiring offenders to surrender their firearms.
After the attack, Notice called 911, saying her ex-boyfriend stabbed her and she was bleeding to death. She and Carter broke up in December 2008 and she obtained a restraining order against him, but he violated that order several times, police said.
She was so worried that she had her father set up a surveillance camera outside her apartment. The jury watched and listened to recordings from the camera that showed Notice running away from the suspect. The stabbing was out of the camera’s view, but Notice’s screams can be heard.
On the day of the killing, Carter took a knife with him as he drove to Notice’s apartment complex and called locksmiths to say he was locked out of his apartment in an effort to get into Notice’s home, Rotiroti said. Carter aborted that plan because Notice arrived home and he “laid in wait” for her, the prosecutor said.
The knife was never found, but Rotiroti told the jury that Carter must have hid it somewhere. The prosecutor said Carter then called his brother and told him that he stabbed Notice, and he later lied to police about his whereabouts and the kind of vehicle he was driving. Notice’s neighbors said they saw Carter’s vehicle driving away after they heard screams.
The prosecution’s other exhibits included a pair of Carter’s jeans with Notice’s blood on them and a letter Carter wrote to his father saying he was glad Notice was dead and hoped she was “burning in Hell.” The comments were among several disparaging remarks he made about Notice after her death, authorities said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)