Testimony continues in Susan Wright resentencing

October 19, 2010 5:49:03 PM PDT
It was another emotional day in the resentencing trial of Susan Wright. She was convicted of killing her husband by stabbing him nearly 200 times. The 25-year punishment was thrown out because Susan Wright's defense did not include battered women syndrome.

Her sentence could be reduced significantly if the jury believes the murder was a case of 'sudden passion.'

Today the victim's mother took the stand to talk about her son's murder.

"He said, 'I love you mom,'" said Kay Wright.

She held back tears as she told the jury the last words her son Jeffrey Wright told her in January 2004. She also testified she had no reason to doubt Susan Wright's claim later that month she kicked out her husband Jeffrey Wright.

"We were believing her that Jeff had taken off at home," said Kay Wright.

Susan Wright looked at her former mother-in-law today without crying. Kay Wright said Susan Wright never before told her she was abused but believed her claim Jeffrey Wright had hit his son Bradley while play boxing in January of 2004 and was kicked out by Susan.

"I said, 'Has Jeff come back?' And she said, 'Yes he's come back.' And she said he got some of his clothes and he took my clothes and put bleach all over them in the bedroom and she also said he'd left a note that said thanks for betraying me or something like that," Kay Wright said.

The prosecution said Susan Wright also lied to her mother-in law, Kay Wright. She said Susan Wright called her, concerned in January 2004 when Jeffery Wright never returned home.

"She said if anything ever happens to me, I want my kids to live with my sister. I said nothing is going to happen. Jeffery will come home and well straighten this thing out," said Kay Wright.

She did not know at the time, she said, her son was dead. His wife, Susan Wright, is convicted of the murder, stabbing him nearly 200 times.

Susan Wright's neighbor and friend also testified she was worried.

"I was feeling like if he was doing unpredictable things that it could continue to escalate and be dangerous," said friend Kelly Hall.

When Hall was asked if there ever was there a time she told her he physically abused her, she replied, "No ma'am."

So far, the jury has not heard from witnesses confirming the claim of abuse, including Hall.

The defense showed photographs of Susan Wright, showing her bruises that she said was caused by her husband Jeffrey Wright.

Dr. Stephen Fischer says at the time, he believed Susan Wright and encouraged her to report the injuries to authorities. However, prosecutor John Jordan said the photographs were taken after Jeffrey Wright's death.

Prosecutor: The reality is, you'll agree with me, she (Susan Wright) lied to you when she came in that morning.
Dr. Fischer: Right.
Prosecutor: And you really don't know how she got those injuries that you saw, other than what she told you.
Dr. Fischer: Correct.

The defense claims it was 'sudden passion' from repeated abuse that caused Susan Wright to snap. It's a defense that worked for Clara Harris. She was convicted of killing her husband and sentenced to 20 years.

"You must look and determine if there is adequate cause and would a person of ordinary temperament, an ordinary prudent person enraged to a point of passion that would rise to that level," said George Parnham, Clara Harris trial attorney.

A claim of 'sudden passion' in this resentencing could reduce Susan Wright's punishment, but it is also risky says our legal analyst.

"Right now, she has 25 years in prison. She's served six years. She doesn't have much time left until parole - this could change the whole landscape," said KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy.

In this case, the jury has a wide range of options. If they find 'sudden passion,' Wright could get probation. If they don't find 'sudden passion,' she could receive up to life in prison.

Focus on GHB in husband's body

Testimony resumed this morning in the resentencing trial of Susan Wright, and we are expecting more dramatics today as prosecutors plan to bring back into the courtroom the bed in which Wright stabbed her husband to death six years ago.

We've seen a very emotional start to the resentencing. Yesterday, Susan Wright cried non-stop in the courtroom as prosecutors revisited the facts of the case that ultimately led to her guilty conviction in 2004.

There was a new focus on Tuesday morning though -- how much GHB, also known as the 'date rape drug,' was in Jeffrey Wright's body at the time of his death. The jury heard from chief toxicologist from the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office, but the testimony did not provide the absolute answer the prosecution had hoped for.

The toxicologist testified that Jeffrey Wright had taken cocaine, less than .1 gram of cocaine was detected in his body, within seven hours of his death. The jury also heard that he had taken alcohol.

The prosecution though focused on the 33 milligrams of GHB found in his body. The toxicologist told the jury that GHB is a naturally occurring substance in the body, and also occurs during decomposition.

"If I had this 33 milligrams in a person that was reporting a rape or something, it was really a high amount for that case, a live person," said Dr. Ashraf Mozayani, Chief Toxicologist from the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office.

Dr. Mozayani went on to say there's a 50-50 chance whether GHB was given to Jeffrey Wright or if it occurred naturally after his death. The prosecution yesterday in opening arguments told jurors that GHB had been given to Jeffrey Wright.

Susan Wright was convicted of killing her husband in 2004, stabbing him more than 193 times while she sat on top of him in bed. She had bound his hands and ankles. The crime was acted out in court.

The bed from 2004 was expected to be brought into court on Tuesday, but that didn't happen.

The bed in court

During the initial trial six years ago, prosecutors, in a very dramatic move, brought the Wright's bed into the courtroom, along with the blood-soaked mattress. Prosecutor Kelly Siegler straddled her co-counsel re-enacting the crime.

Today, the mattress will be brought back into the courtroom for the new group of jurors who will decide whether Susan Wright will walk out a free woman, or spend more time in prison.

"Clearly you have to be able to see what happened in this case in order for you to determine the appropriate punishment for this act of murder," said prosecutor Connie Spence.

Appeals lawyers argued for this resentencing, saying Wright's original trial lawyers failed to present testimony that she was a battered and abused wife. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed.

This process is expected to take a couple weeks.


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