Jury seated in ex-NBA player’s murder trial in Memphis

MEMPHIS, TN — Opening statements have been set for Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of killing former NBA player Lorenzen Wright, whose body was found in a swampy field nearly 12 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee.

A 15-person jury sat Monday in the trial of Billy Ray Turner, who pleaded not guilty to charges of first degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy. Twelve of the 15 jurors will ultimately decide whether to find Turner guilty or acquit him. He could face life in prison if convicted.

Opening statements from Turner’s trial may finally reveal key details about Wright’s murder, one of the most high-profile murder cases in Memphis history. His decomposing body was found riddled with gunshot wounds in East Memphis on July 28, 2010. Wright, 34, had been missing for 10 days before his body was discovered.

A native of Memphis, the 6-foot-11 Wright played 13 seasons for the Memphis Grizzlies and four other NBA teams, after playing college basketball at the University of Memphis. He was removed from the league when he was killed.

Martin was convicted of murder in a separate case. He could also testify at trial.

Turner, 51, and Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright, were charged in December 2017 with the murder. She entered a surprise guilty plea to facilitating murder in July 2019 and Judge Lee Coffee sentenced her to 30 years in prison.

Turner, a convicted felon, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for possession of two firearms when he was arrested in 2017. Another police officer said the murder weapon in Wright’s murder was found in a northern Mississippi lake about two months before Turner and Sherra Wright were charged and arrested.

Witnesses said Sherra Wright orchestrated a plan for two men to kill her ex-husband at his Atlanta home, but that attempt failed, according to an affidavit.

She and Turner then conspired to kill him in Memphis, authorities said. Turner, a landscaper in the Memphis suburb of Collierville, and Sherra Wright attended the same church.

A witness, Jimmie Martin, told authorities about the Atlanta conspiracy and that he helped Turner and Sherra Wright clean up the crime scene, authorities said in the affidavit. Martin was convicted of murder in a separate case and could testify at trial.

She then received $1 million from her ex-husband’s life insurance policy and settled a legal dispute in 2014 over how she spent the insurance money meant for their six children, a reported The Commercial Appeal.

Prosecutor Paul Hagerman said the trial is expected to last between a week and 10 days. The jury will be sequestered.

“I imagine it will be a long and difficult trial,” he said.

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