HOUSTON – A woman who tied her husband to the bed, stabbed him 193 times and buried his body in the backyard is lying when she claims she did so after years of abuse, prosecutors told jurors Monday during her sentencing hearing.
Susan Wright, 34, is being re-sentenced for the 2003 murder of her 34-year-old husband, Jeffrey. She was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison, but the Texas Court of Appeals last year tossed the sentence, agreeing with Wright that her trial lawyers were deficient because they failed to present testimony from witnesses that would have bolstered the abuse claims.
During her opening statement Monday, Harris County prosecutor Connie Spence told jurors Wright lied about being physically abused by her husband to try to justify the killing.
She said it was only after Wright killed her husband that she began telling family and friends that she had been abused. Wright even went to police and took out a restraining order against Jeffrey Wright after stabbing him to promote her false story of abuse, Spence said.
"There were 193 stab wounds inflicted from head to toe," Spence said. "There were wounds to the head, face, neck, chest, abdomen, sexual organ, thighs. These were all inflicted to the front of Jeffrey Wright's body ... consistent with somebody restrained, on his back."
Prosecutors have said Wright tied her husband's ankles and wrists to their bed before stabbing him at their Houston-area home on Jan. 13, 2003. She buried his body in a backyard hole he had dug for a fountain, and cleaned and painted the bedroom to cover up the crime.
The couple's young son and daughter were asleep and didn't witness the killing.
Wright's attorneys held off on their opening statement until the prosecution presented its case. Before the trial began, state District Judge Jim Wallace, at the request of prosecutors, asked two of Wright's defense attorneys to remove ribbons they wore that raise awareness of domestic violence.
Prosecutors contended at her 2004 trial that Wright killed her husband because she wanted benefits from his $200,000 life insurance policy and didn't want a divorce.
The punishment trial's first witness, Harris County Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dwayne Wolf, testified he found ligature marks on both of Jeffrey Wright's wrists, signs he had been tied down. Wolf also said that part of Jeffrey Wright's left hand, which had been sticking out from where he had been buried, had been chewed off by a dog.
Wolf detailed for jurors, through graphic photographs shown on a large television screen, Jeffrey Wright's extensive stab wounds. Wolf, who was the only witness on Monday, testified that tests showed Jeffrey Wright had taken cocaine. Susan Wright has said her husband was a cocaine and marijuana abuser.
When questioning Wolf, Jonathan Munier, Wright's attorney, tried to suggest the cocaine in Jeffrey Wright's system could have made him aggressive and that it might have been possible his client used a knife against her husband in self-defense while the couple had been standing in front of each other arguing.
Testimony was to resume Tuesday, with the hearing expected to continue through the rest of the week.
Wright's 2004 trial was thrust into the spotlight when prosecutors then handling the case demonstrated for jurors how they believed Wright killed her husband. They set up Wright's bed and bloodstained mattress in the courtroom. Jurors watched as one prosecutor was tied to the bed while another prosecutor straddled him and made stabbing motions.