SCHENECTADY : Stabbing death trial opens with claim of self-defense
The woman who stabbed her neighbor to death last December did so in self-defense during a scuffle, her attorney told a Schenectady County Court jury Wednesday.
Tina Karuzas’ attorney Mark Caruso attempted to portray the dead woman, Latoya Ebron, as an angry person who had made threats against Karuzas in the past and again that evening as she demanded Karuzas turn down booming music.
“At the time my client committed the act, she did not intend to cause serious physical injury to anyone,” Caruso told the jury in opening statements at Karuzas’ manslaughter trial. “She was protecting herself. She was protecting her daughter and the people in her home. It was an act of self-defense. It was justifi ed.”
Prosecutor William Sanderson portrayed Ebron much differently, as fed up with music blaring from a powerful sound system a hired DJ was running in the apartment upstairs from her and her children the night after Christmas 2011. The party had 15 to 20 guests.
Ebron, Sanderson told the jury, became more and more angry and frustrated at the noise and went up to confront Karuzas.
Ebron, a 26-year-old mother of two, was stabbed once in the abdomen and died hours later.
Sanderson said he expected the attacks on Ebron from the defense attorney.
“I ask you to remember that ultimately it is Tina Karuzas who is on trial here, not Latoya Ebron,” Sanderson told the jury. “Latoya Ebron can’t tell you her side of the story.”It was Karuzas who had a military-style knife, he added, and Ebron who had a telephone. Sanderson told the jury that in the end they would reject any claim of self-defense.
Karuzas faces one count of fi rstdegree manslaughter, a high-level felony that could send her to prison for up to 25 years.
The 27-year-old Karuzas is accused of stabbing Ebron near the door of her upstairs apartment. Ebron survived long enough to stumble down the stairs and call 911. She also identified her attacker by her red-dyed hair. HOME DEFENSE CLAIM
Where the stabbing happened, and what that area is classifi ed as could have an impact on the verdict. The stabbing happened near Karuzas’ upstairs apartment door, in a stairway that served only her apartment.
Caruso argued that the entire stairway and landing constituted Karuzas’ dwelling, meaning Karuzas was not only defending herself, but doing so against a woman who barged into her home.
Regardless of where the stabbing took place, Sanderson argued that Karuzas has no claim of self defense.
“The defendant did not have a credible, reasonable belief that deadly physical force was necessary under the circumstances in her apartment that night,” Sanderson said.
To show Karuzas’ frame of mind, Caruso cited alleged threats Ebron made that night and previously.
Caruso also pointed to an incident two weeks earlier, where Karuzas defended herself from another attack in her home.
In that incident, Karuzas displayed the same knife, with the intent and result to cause her attacker to flee. Karuzas’ intent was the same the night Ebron was stabbed, Caruso said.
Kevin Sands, 39, was charged in June with burglary in connection with the earlier incident, records show. He was identified in paperwork as Karuzas’ ex-boyfriend.
Also, she was also completely cooperative with police after the stabbing, Caruso said, and will testify in her own defense.
Attending the proceedings were what appeared to be individuals connected to both Karuzas and Ebron. Among them was Ebron’s mother, Tonya Daniels.
Just 18 months before the fatal stabbing of her daughter, Daniels nearly lost two of her sons, one 18 and the other 11, in an unrelated shooting.
As Sanderson described her daughter’s death to the jury, Daniels appeared quietly emotional. A man accompanying her offered her a tissue.
The case is being heard before acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly Hoye. Testimony is expected to wrap up next week.