Victim's co-worker testifies in Susan Wright trial

October 20, 2010 4:16:23 PM PDT
She did it for the insurance money. That was the reason prosecutors say Susan Wright killed her husband, Jeffrey, by stabbing him nearly 200 times. But in the resentencing trial, defense attorneys are trying to show that Wright was an abused wife. Kevin Conboy, a co-worker of Jeffrey Wright, said it was on a phone call that he could hear Susan Wright screaming.

"It was clear that the conversation was about the insurance policy and whether or not Jeff had turned in the insurance policy," testified Conboy on Wednesday.

Conboy was a co-worker of Wright in 2003 and says Susan Wright called her husband at work to check on the paperwork of his life insurance policy. In court, she slightly shook her head when Conboy gave his next answer.

"That he would get it taken care of and he would turn in paperwork and he also said, 'If I die, you will be a very rich woman,'" said Conboy.

The prosecution is trying to prove Susan Wright killed her husband because she wanted money from the insurance policy. Wright was convicted in 2004 of killing her husband and sentenced to 25 years.

"I saw her turn to Jeff with a knife," testified Brian Roberts, Jeff Wright's brother-in-law.

Roberts testified that once while in the kitchen cooking, Susan Wright was angry at her husband and pointed the knife at him.

The defense argued holding a knife in a kitchen is not unusual. But it's Susan Wright's claims of abuse by her husband that Roberts testified surprised him, saying he never heard the claim before Jeffrey Wright's death in 2003 when Susan Wright spoke to Roberts after her husband's death.

"I asked her if it had happened before," testified Roberts.

"What was her answer?" asked the defense attorney.

"'Yes, 2,3,5 more than 6 times,' she said."

Punishment thrown out

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 Jeffrey 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. Jeffrey will come home and we'll 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 were 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

On Tuesday, the court's focus was on 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 Monday in opening arguments told jurors that GHB had been given to Jeffrey Wright.

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