'Sudden passion' key to Houston woman's murder trial
Jurors deliberated more than five hours Monday without deciding punishment for Susan Wright, convicted of murder in 2004 for stabbing her husband 193 times.
State District Judge Jim Wallace dismissed jurors for the night. They are expected to return Tuesday morning.
If jurors decide Wright acted in sudden passion, her new sentence will be capped at 20 years.
Wright was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing 34-year-old Jeffrey Wright at the couple's northwest Harris County home Jan. 13, 2003. An appellate court granted her a new punishment phase of the trial, which began two weeks ago.
The jury Monday sent out three notes, asking how the seven years Wright has been behind bars affects a prison sentence and how it affects probation. The jurors also asked if the judge could order mandatory psychological counseling if Wright is placed on probation.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers sparred over almost every point in the trial including whether Jeffrey Wright was tied to the couple's bed when he was stabbed almost 200 times.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this was a fight," defense lawyer Tommy Lafon argued. "The physical evidence does not support a theory that he was tied to the bed."
Victim was bound
Prosecutors immediately pointed to ligatures found with Jeffrey Wright's body and said both hands and his left leg were bound.
"He was in the center of the bed," Assistant District Attorney John Jordan said as he waved a butcher knife around the courtroom.
Jordan also used a second knife, the murder weapon, to pantomime the stabbing, counting out wounds by tens, the prosecutor said.
"10, 20, 30 ..." he yelled while pacing in front of jurors. "190, 191, 192, 193!"
He also tried to refute Susan Wright's contention that she was a battered wife — the crux of her defense.
"This was a divorce by homicide," Jordan said.
Defense attorney Jonathan Munier called Wright, "an absolute mouse."
'In virtual hell'
Formerly a topless dancer, Wright's appearance in court has been more school marm than stripper.
"She has been in a virtual hell for a long, long time," Munier said of the abuse he said the mother of two suffered. "She had black eyes. She had bruises."
Munier called Jeffrey Wright a drug addict who hit his wife and his son and who still haunts his widow.
"How do you kill a damn devil? You can't. He's still here," Munier said.
Prosecutors said Jeffrey Wright may have used drugs, fallen behind on the couple's bills, and not come home on time.
"Those are adequate reasons to get a divorce," said Assistant Harris County District Attorney Connie Spence. "Those are not adequate reasons to kill a man."
Spence told jurors that Wright knew what she had done was wrong, evidenced by the fact that she buried her husband in a shallow grave in the backyard rather than calling police.
"Susan Wright made sure that Jeff Wright would never be able to tell his side of the story," Spence said. "Whether it was the 1st stab, the 42nd stab or the 123rd stab, she made sure he would never be able to speak."
From probation to life
Susan Wright sobbed softly through the closing arguments as Munier and Lafon asked jurors to give her probation
"You don't stab someone 193 times for no reason," Lafon repeated several times. "It's the result of years of pent-up frustration, anger, abuse and terror."
Wright faces a punishment ranging from probation to life in prison and must serve at least half before being eligible for parole. An appeals court granted a second punishment trial after attorneys for Wright successfully argued that she had ineffective counsel.
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