MEMPHIS — A Shelby County jury has found Billy Ray Turner guilty of first-degree murder in the 2010 shooting death of Memphis hometown hero and NBA star Lorenzen Wright.
The jury reached a unanimous decision on all three points after deliberating for less than three hours on Monday.
Wright was shot shortly after midnight on July 19, 2010. His body was found days later in a remote area of southeast Shelby County.
Due to the time lapse between when Wright was killed and when police discovered his badly decomposed body, investigators lost key evidence that would have facilitated a faster investigation.
The case was considered cold for several years, until investigators found reason to re-examine the role of Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright.
Sherra Wright was charged around the same time Turner was in late 2017. She is currently serving a 30-year sentence.
Wright was, according to both prosecution and defense descriptions, a son of Memphis. He was a high school graduate of Memphis City Schools, played for the University of Memphis, and played for the Memphis Grizzlies for five seasons.
The trial has been ongoing since March 14. A sequestered jury heard the last witnesses called by the prosecution and the defense on Saturday before taking their leave on Sunday.
Much of the trial centered on the testimony of Jimmie Martin, who is the cousin of Wright’s ex-wife.
Martin, the prosecution said, presented extensive corroborating evidence that placed Turner in planning discussions, an unsuccessful attempt to kill Wright at his Atlanta home, the murder scene, and then finally, in subsequent efforts. to remove evidence from the crime scene.
A key strategy for defense attorney John Perry was to view Martin’s testimony as words spoken by a man who was already serving time for killing his girlfriend; Martin, Perry said, was keen to avoid any additional criminal charges when he agreed to help investigators solve Wright’s death.
Martin was granted immunity in the Wright case. He was revealed by prosecutors as the “unindicted co-conspirator” in 2018.
During closing arguments, Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Austin Scofield presented the jury with a recap of Turner’s statements to police and corroborating evidence showing that Turner had communicated with Sherra Wright and Martin on the night of the murder.
Scofield repeatedly pointed to “rude code” used by Sherra Wright, who is currently serving her sentence after pleading guilty to her role in Wright’s 2019 death, as key evidence showing Turner was working with Sherra Wright.
Turner, the prosecution claimed, was romantically involved with Sherra Wright and was someone she could manipulate.
The defense countered that argument and presented Turner not as an easily manipulated idiot, but rather as an autodidact with his own lawn business and a busy life.
The primary evidence in the trial was the cellphone location data that placed Turner in the area of Wright’s death on the night of July 18, 2010, the use of Turner’s car in the murder, and communications between Turner and Sherra Wright.