MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Day three of testimony in the trial of Billy Ray Turner ended with the prosecution’s star witness on the stand.
Turner is charged with killing former Memphis Tigers star and NBA player Lorenzen Wright. Turner says he is innocent.
Turner and Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright, were arrested and charged with Wright’s murder in 2017, seven years after the crime.
In 2019, Wright pleaded guilty to Facilitation of Murder in the First Degree and is currently serving time in prison.
Jimmie Martin, who is Sherra Wright’s cousin, took the stand Thursday afternoon and detailed the many meetings he had with Wright’s accused killers leading up to the deadly shooting.
Shelby County ADA Paul Hagerman questioned Martin.
When asked why he sat and listened to Sherra Wright’s plot to kill her ex-husband take shape and did not try to stop it, Martin said, “When someone come to you with a murder plot, they are planning to kill someone they love, you are like the lowest man on the totem pole. They have no problem killing you.”
ADA Hagerman asked Martin if he felt pressured to take part in the plot.
“Yea, there was a lot of pressure,” he answered.
Thursday morning’s testimony began with more questions about phone calls and texts.
Text messages and pages of Facebook messages between Martin and Sherra Wright were entered into evidence earlier in the week.
The fourth day of trial began with the defense’s cross-examination of Sgt. Dennis Evans. Evans previously explained phone calls made from Turner’s phone moments before and after Lorenzen Wright’s murder.
Cross-examination of Sgt. Evans continued around the phone calls, text messages, and Facebook messages between Turner, Sherra Wright, and Jimmie Martin.
Turner’s attorney John Keith Perry repeatedly question Sgt. Evans about cell phone and cell phone tower records from July 18, 2010, the day of Lorenzen Wright’s murder. Perry argued that phone records do not put Billy Ray Turner at Lorenzen Wright’s murder scene.
Judge Coffee called a recess to give everyone a break after almost 90 minutes of intense testimony.
After more questions about messages sent between Sherra Wright and Jimmie Martin, the defense ended its cross-examination.
Judge Coffee asked Sgt. Evans to clear up some information for the jury, then prosecutors were allowed to question him again.
After a short recess around 4 p.m., the prosecution called Jimmie Martin as the next witness.
Martin was questioned about his relationship with Turner and Sherra Wright. He spoke about how a May 2010 conversation between him and Sherra Wright went from talking about helping train dogs to coming up with a plot to kill Lorenzen Wright.
Martin testified about two meetings at Sherra Wright’s home involving Billy Turner.
He mentioned the “either me or him” conversation we heard about on the first day of testimony from Claudia Robinson, Sherra Robinson’s cousin.
Martin admitted him, Turner, Sherra Wright, and a pregnant woman were all present.
Martin said in the second meeting, the three discussed the tools needed to kill Lorenzen Wright. Martin said they discussed using two or three guns.
Martin said there was a plan to kill Lorenzen Wright in Atlanta.
Martin told the court he thought the plot to kill Lorenzen Wright was crazy and said he felt Billy Ray Turner felt the same way. Martin said he didn’t want to tell Sherra Wright the plan was crazy because he didn’t want to “rock the boat.”
Martin testified guns in the back of Billy Turner’s car were a 45, 38, and 357 magnum when they planned to kill Lorenzen Wright in Atlanta. There was also marijuana. Martin said he sold one of the guns but kept the other two.
He said he never discussed payment with Sherra Wright, but he wondered what he would be paid the whole time. He said it was just understood he would be paid.
Martin testified Sherra Wright was not happy when the first plan to kill Lorenzen Wright in Atlanta didn’t happen.
He said Sherra Wright contact him twice asking him to drive to Atlanta to kill Lorenzen. The first time he said he lied to her. He told her that he drove there, but couldn’t find the former NBA player.
The second time she called and said it was time, he testified that Billy Ray Turner went with him.
PAUL HAGERMAN: “Did you have a gun with you?
JIMMIE MARTIN: “Yes, sir”
PAUL HAGERMAN: “Did Billy have a gun with him?
JIMMIE MARTIN: “Yes, sir”
PAUL HAGERMAN: “And the idea was y’all were going to Atlanta to kill Lorenzen. Is that correct?”
JIMMIE MARTIN: “Correct.”
Martin told the jury when they arrived in Atlanta, Lorenzen wasn’t at home and he felt relief.
Martin testified on the second trip to Atlanta, he and Billy Turner broke into Wright’s Atlanta condo through an open window. Martin said when they got inside, someone was asleep on the couch, but it wasn’t Lorenzen. Lorenzen wasn’t there.
On the drive back to Memphis from Atlanta, Martin said he and Turner discussed how the plot to kill Lorenzen was getting out of hand, and it was “ridiculous.”
Martin was also questioned about Facebook messages between him and Sherra.
He talked about how he, Billy Turner, and Sherra Wright spoke in code in a series of messages about killing Lorenzen Wright.
After talking about the messages, Judge Coffee halted testimony and released the jury for the evening. He said if testimony continued, it could stretch late into the evening. Instead, court was adjourned until 9:30 Friday morning.
FOX13 will be inside the courtroom Friday morning as Billy Ray Turner’s trial continues, and we will bring you continuous coverage throughout the entire trial.
Stay with FOX13 News for the newest and latest information on this case.
Timeline from Lorenzen’s murder to Turner and Wright’s arrests
This is a murder investigation FOX13 has followed from the very beginning.
Victim Lorenzen Wright was a beloved Memphian and a Booker T Washington graduate who played basketball for two years at The University of Memphis before joining the NBA. He also played five seasons for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Wright was last seen on July 18, 2010. A Germantown dispatcher answered a 911 call from the basketball star’s cell phone the next day. The dispatcher heard 11 gunshots ring out.
The dispatcher didn’t tell her supervisor about the call until 8 days later.
The very next day, Memphis police found Wright’s decomposing body in a field in southeast Memphis.
It took investigators another seven years to find the gun used to kill Wright. In November 2017, FOX13 reported the gun was found in a lake in Tippah County, Mississippi. That’s over 88 miles from where his body was found.
A month later, police made two arrests in the case: Billy Ray Turner and Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright.
Who is Billy Ray Turner?
Turner lived in a quiet neighborhood, on a dead-end street in Raleigh.
Three sources told FOX13 he worked at the Wright home and did yard work.
Turner was 46 years old when he was arrested on Tuesday, December 5, 2017, and charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the Lorenzen Wright case.
According to the TBI, Turner was arrested and convicted of violent crimes back in the 1990′s.
Collierville police arrested Turner for aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping back in 1992. During the same year, police arrested him for selling cocaine and he was sentenced to four years in prison.
In 1996, police in Collierville arrested him for criminal trespass. Fifteen years later, police picked him up on minor traffic violations.
Turner has openly proclaimed his Christian faith on social media. FOX13 discovered Turner was a deacon at Mount Olive Number One Baptist Church, a church attended by Lorenzen Wright and his ex-wife.
Building the Case
The seven-year investigation into Lorenzen Wright’s murder was one of the Memphis Police Department’s most high-profile unsolved cases.
Almost a month after the gun believed to have been used in Wright’s murder was found in a Mississippi lake, Turner was charged with first-degree murder on December 5, 2017. Sherra Wright was arrested in California in connection with the murder ten days later on December 15, 2017. She was originally indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, criminal attempted first-degree murder, and first-degree murder.
In April of 2018, indictment documents detailed the allegations against Sherra and Turner. The indictment alleges they tried to kill Wright multiple times. Sherra’s bond was set at $20M. Turner was given a $15M bond.
During Turner’s hearing, the public learned bombshell information regarding the alleged murder plot. A statement provided by an informant, Jimmie Martin, was read. Martin was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend in 2012 and was serving 20 years in prison. He is also Sherra Wright’s cousin.
Martin claimed to be the third co-conspirator in the murder. Prosecutors said that Martin flipped on Sherra and Turner and told homicide detectives he had information related to Lorenzen’s killing. In the statement, Martin detailed the alleged murder plot -- including a failed attempt in Atlanta, how Sherra got Lorenzen back to Memphis, clean-up of the crime scene and more.
In May of 2019, it was decided that Sherra and Turner would face a jury of their peers in Shelby County.
In July of 2019, Sherra took a deal and pleaded guilty to Facilitation of Murder in the First Degree and is serving up to a 30-year sentence.
It is unknown if she will be called as a witness in Turner’s case.
Initially, Turner’s trial date was set for September 2019. It was reset so his attorney could look over new evidence.
The new trial date was slated for October 2020 but did not happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sherra Wright’s bond set at $20 million 5/20/2018
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