MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The jury in the trial of Billy Ray Turner for the murder of Memphis Grizzlies player Lorenzen Wright found him guilty of first degree murder Monday. Turner was also found guilty on counts of conspiracy to commit murder and criminal intent to commit murder.
The verdict came after about two hours of deliberation Monday afternoon, following hours of closing arguments.
Judge Lee Coffee sentenced Turner to a life in prison for the first degree murder charge and set the sentencing date for his other two counts on April 22.
Both those counts carry between 15 and 25 years in prison each and could be served concurrently.
Judge Coffee spoke directly to Wright's mother, Deborah Marion, who was present at the trial Monday. Coffee urged Marion to remember the good things and celebrate Lorenzen's life, as she nodded in agreement with Coffee's words.
After the verdict, Marion said: 'It's a celebration for me because we've got somebody else. You know for actually doing what they did. Not just facilitation, he got charged with the real deal crime, Murder, first degree."
The case's lead prosecutor - Paul Hagerman - said shortly after the verdict: "I loved the jury sent a strong and clear message, I loved to see that we were able to prove the things that we said we could, corroborate the things that we said we could and present a coherent account of the terrible murder that happened 12 years ago."
The jury was excused at 1:38 p.m. Monday to deliberate their verdict after hearing closing arguments from the state and defense, pushing through their scheduled lunch break to finish hearing rebuttals.
The state rested its case late Saturday morning after calling its final witness - an undercover law enforcement member who testified about surveilling Turner and Sherra Wright after authorities announced a murder weapon had been found.
After the state rested, Judge Coffee said there was more than enough corroborating evidence of conspiracy, first degree murder, and attempted first degree murder, including items and bullet casings recovered at crime scene. He then denied a motion of acquittal made by the defense.
Following that ruling, Billy Ray Turner took the stand without the jury present, and told the judge he did not want to testify.
The defense called one witness - Jennifer Bogan - who testified that Turner attended a cookout at her Collierville home the evening of July 18, 2010 - roughly two hours before Lorenzen Wright made the 911 amid gunshots.
The unindicted co-conspirator
Friday, a defense attorney for Turner, charged with fatally shooting the former NBA player, attempted to poke holes in the testimony of a convicted killer who said Wright's ex-wife gave him details about the slaying.
Jimmie Martin has provided key testimony in the trial of Turner, who has pleaded not guilty to charges including first-degree murder in the death of Wright, a Memphis native who played 13 seasons in the NBA before he retired after the 2008-2009 season.
Prosecutors allege Turner and Martin were asked by Lorenzen Wright's ex-wife, Sherra Wright, to kill him in Atlanta, then Memphis, in 2010. At the time, Martin was facing charges of killing his girlfriend. Martin was convicted and is currently serving prison time in that case. He has received immunity from prosecution in the Wright case.
Martin is Sherra Wright's cousin. Turner is a gardener who knew Sherra Wright from church and, according to prosecutors, had a secret romantic relationship with her.
Martin testified Thursday that Sherra Wright recruited him and Turner to kill Lorenzen Wright, whose decomposing body was found riddled with bullet wounds in a swampy field in east Memphis on July 28, 2010. The 34-year-old father of six had been missing for days before his body was discovered.
Wright's slaying is one of the most highly publicized murder cases in Memphis history.
Turner and Sherra Wright were indicted in 2017. She entered a surprise guilty plea to facilitation of murder in July 2019 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Martin testified Thursday that he and Turner met with Sherra Wright to plan the killing and went to Lorenzen Wright's condominium in Atlanta to shoot him, with an understanding that he would get paid.
Armed with handguns, Turner and Martin went to the Atlanta condo, entered through a window and found someone sleeping on the couch in the living room — but it was not Lorenzen Wright, Martin testified. Turner and Martin returned home without killing anyone.
Back on the witness stand Friday, Martin told prosecutor Paul Hagerman that he was in Batesville, Mississippi, at the time of the July 19, 2010, shooting. Martin said he went to the field with Sherra Wright some days after the shooting, and she essentially confessed.
Sherra Wright said she lured her ex-husband to the field by telling him that she was going to meet someone there to get some money, Martin testified. According to Martin, she said that she and Turner chased Lorenzen Wright, who jumped a fence before they shot him in the field.
"How did you feel about that?" Hagerman said.
"Terrible," Martin replied.
Martin also said Turner and Wright got rid of evidence from the shooting scene and he went with Turner to dispose of the murder weapon by dumping it in a north Mississippi lake. Martin said he told detectives in 2012 where the gun was located. It was later found by FBI divers.
In his opening statement Tuesday, defense attorney John Keith Perry questioned Martin's credibility, saying the information he gave investigators was a farce and full of lies.
On cross-examination Friday, Perry challenged several aspects of the Martin's story, including details about meetings with Sherra Wright, his activities on the night of the shooting and conversations with Turner on the drive to Atlanta.
Perry questioned Martin about whether he actually entered Lorenzen Wright's condo with a gun or if Turner was the only one who went inside. Perry said Martin had previously told detectives in three interviews that he didn't have a gun and waited outside.
But Perry noted that Martin testified Thursday that he did go inside with Turner, with weapons drawn.
"Out of the three prior statements, you never said that, correct?" Perry asked Martin.
Martin hesitated, then said, "Yes sir."
A motive for the slaying was not clear, though Hagerman said in his opening statement that the killers were driven by jealousy and greed. Hagerman also mentioned $2 million, though it was not immediately clear what that meant.
Sherra Wright did receive $1 million from her ex-husband's life insurance policy and settled a court dispute in 2014 over how she spent the insurance money meant to benefit their six children, The Commercial Appeal has reported.