MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The jury sequestered for the trial of Billy Ray Turner didn’t take the weekend off as testimony in the Lorenzen Wright murder case continued.
The prosecution called one last person to the stand on Saturday morning and the defense called one person.
Judge Coffee allowed final arguments to wait until Monday morning and discussed the charges that Billy Ray Turner faces.
On the stand Saturday, a Memphis Police undercover officer identified Turner as the man undercover officers had under surveillance including Sherra Wright. The date of surveillance was November 11, 2017. Police called this “Operation Rebound.”
The officer’s name nor face was shown or given in court due to still working in an undercover capacity.
The officer described a series of photos that were taken the day of his surveillance on the defendant and Sherra Wright.
The state ended calling witnesses to the stand and Sherra Wright was not called to the stand at all during testimonies.
The defense for Turner made a motion for an acquittal of Billy Ray Turner based on what the defense claims are insufficient evidence and conflicting testimony from the state’s key witness, Jimmie Martin, and does not meet the burden of proof.
The prosecution said that witness Martin provided a consistent conspiracy of crime.
The state rested its case.
Judge Coffee asked Turner if he wished to testify in his trial and he denied it.
“I do not want to testify,” Turner told the judge.
That’s about as much as we will hear from Turner in his trial.
It was then the defense called Jennifer Bogan, a family friend and church member of Billy Ray Turner’s, to the stand to testify the whereabouts of Turner on the day and night of July 18, 2010. Bogan told the court that Turner was at her home for a cookout and that he left about 10 p.m. that night. Bogan told the prosecution she did not know where Turner was after he left her home that same night.
Prosecutor: “With regard to your personal knowledge do you know where Mr. Turner was at midnight?”
Bogan: “I do not.”
Prosecutor: “Any idea where he was 12 minutes after midnight?”
Bogan: “I do not.”
Bogan also stated she knew Sherra Wright and that she was also a member of the same church.
The defense then asked for an acquittal, for the second time, and Judge Lee Coffee denied Turner’s attorney’s request for the acquittal and ordered that a jury proceeds with deciding whether Turner is guilty or not guilty.
“In order for a jury to find Billy Turner guilty of conspiracy or to not be found guilty based only on the testimony of Jimmie Martin because he is in fact an accomplice to that crime it has to be corroborated by some other fact including other factors that goes to the identity of Billy Turner,” Coffee said. “There is more than enough corroborating evidence to find elements to commit a conspiracy of first-degree murder.”
The defenses rested around 11:30 a.m. Saturday and at least one juror requested the court to not resume until Monday because of religious objections for Sunday.
Judge Coffee agreed to resume on Monday.
Before the dismissal of court, the judge discussed the jurors’ instructions and the charges Turner faces.
The jury will have to decide on 19 possible verdicts in this case that involve first-degree Murder, conspiracy of first-degree murder and attempted murder.
Final arguments will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday then it is up to the 12 jurors.
FOX13 will be inside the courtroom this 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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