Jurors on Monday convicted Billy Ray Turner, 51, of murdering NBA center Lorenzen Wright, 34. Prosecutors said Turner committed the crime on behalf of the victim’s ex-wife Sherra Wright. He was also convicted of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and criminal attempt of first-degree murder.
As far as prosecutors are concerned, this ends a saga running more than 11 years. Lorenzen Wright, a popular center for teams like the Los Angeles Clippers and his hometown Memphis Grizzles, made a tragic final 911 call to authorities in Germantown, Tennessee, on the early morning of July 19, 2010. Gunshots violently interrupted it. Prosecutor Paul Hagerman acknowledged to jurors that dispatch failed to follow up on this, so Wright’s body remained in a remote area for 9 days.
The case went cold until 2012, when Sherra Wright’s cousin Jimmie Martin stepped forward to claim that this relative recruited him and Turner to help plot and execute Lorenzen’s murder. He testified at Turner’s trial that he and Billy Ray went to Lorenzen’s Atlanta condo after Sherra left open a window. In his account, they entered but found someone–not the target–sleeping in the living room. They left this unknown person unharmed, he said.
Martin, an unindicted co-conspirator, claimed that he was not at the actual murder later on, but that Sherra recruited him to help clean up evidence, including the murder weapon. In his version of events, Sherra said she and Turner were both there. Prosecutors said that Sherra and her lover Turner chased Lorenzen with guns, and that Turner fired the fatal shots.
Sherra Wright is serving a 30-year sentence after pleading guilty to facilitation to commit murder and facilitation to commit attempted first-degree murder.
Turner attorney John Keity Perry said Martin was being self-serving: He was facing sentencing in 2012 to murdering girlfriend Martha Jean Bownes, serving a 20-year sentence. He said Martin’s cousin is the real killer, not Turner. He acknowledged in closing arguments that Turner loanded his car on Sherra’s behalf for Martin to use, but Turner did not truly know what this was for.
Hagerman rhetorically asked what it takes to kill someone. Perry threw this back at the prosecution during opening statements.
“It takes a punk’s heart,” he said, referring to Martin.
Prosecutor Austin Schofield said in closing arguments that Sherra went to Turner for help because she trusted him, and to Martin for help because she could get leverage over him being a defendant in the pending Bownes. According to the state, she exposed herself and Turner by reaching out to him through a second woman, communicating with him in code, though the code was so “dumb” he did not even know who it was.
Lorenzen Wright was a star center at the University of Memphis in the mid-1990s. The Clippers went on to select Wright with the 7th pick overall in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft.
[Screenshot via Law&Crime Network]
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