MEMPHIS – A judge has set an October trial date for a man charged with conspiring with the ex-wife of Lorenzen Wright to kill the former NBA player more than nine years ago.
Wright, a Memphis native, was a Daily Journal Player of the Year in 1993, during his high school days at Lafayette.
Shelby County judge Lee Coffee told Billy Ray Turner during a Tuesday court hearing that his trial has been scheduled for Oct. 26 after prosecutors and his defense attorney agreed on that day. Wright's slaying is the most highly publicized murder cases in the city's history.
Turner has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy issued in a December 2017 indictment. He could face life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.
Wright's decomposing body was found riddled with bullet wounds in a swampy field in east Memphis on July 28, 2010. Wright, 34, had been missing for 10 days before his body was discovered.
A Memphis native, the 6-foot-11 Wright played 13 seasons for the Memphis Grizzlies and four other NBA teams. He was retired from the league when he was killed.
Wright's ex-wife, Sherra Wright, entered a surprise guilty plea to facilitation of murder in July. Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee sentenced her to 30 years in prison. She could be a trial witness.
Turner, 48, pleaded guilty in June to possessing a weapon as a convicted felon. Prosecutors say Turner had two guns when he was charged with Wright's killing. Turner was sentenced to 16 years in prison on the separate gun charge.
Turner's trial in Wright's killing had been set for September 2019, but it was delayed after prosecutors presented more potential evidence to Turner's lawyer.
Turner, a landscaper in the Memphis suburb of Collierville, and Sherra Wright attended the same church. Witnesses said Sherra Wright masterminded a plan to have two men kill Lorenzen Wright at his home in Atlanta, but that attempt failed, according to an affidavit.
She and Turner then conspired to kill him in Memphis, and they dumped one of the guns used in the shooting in a Mississippi lake, authorities have said. A gun that was allegedly used in the killing was found in the lake weeks before charges were filed in the case.
One of the witnesses, Jimmie Martin, told authorities about the Atlanta plot and that he helped Turner and Sherra Wright clean the crime scene, authorities said in the affidavit, which was read in court by a prosecutor.
Martin has been convicted of murder in a separate case. He also could testify during the trial.
Turner's lawyer, John Keith Perry, questioned Martin's statements that Turner took part in Wright's slaying.
“My client has been in jail now three years because of a convicted murderer,” Perry said.
Sherra Wright received $1 million from her ex-husband's life insurance policy. She agreed to a settlement in 2014 in a court dispute over how she spent the insurance money meant to benefit their six children.
Wright's mother, Deborah Marion, is ready for a trial, prosecutor Paul Hagerman said after the hearing.
“She wants an end to this process,” Hagerman said.