The Susan Wright Case

Undisputed Facts:


1. On January 13, 2003 Jeff Wright was killed by his wife, Susan, in his Texas home, while in his bed.


2. Susan stabbed Jeff up to 193 times with two knives, then she buried his body in the backyard and proceeded to clean up the bedroom.


3. On January 18, 2003 Susan called an attorney to her home, confessed of her crime and turned herself into the police on January 24th.  


4. Susan's trial began on February 24, 2004 with a pleading of "not guilty by reason of self-defense."


5. On March 3, 2004 Susan Wright was found guilty of murder.  She was sentenced to 25 years.


6. In 2005 her conviction was upheld.


7. In 2009 Susan was granted a new sentencing hearing.  She was re-sentenced to 20 years, only five years less than the original.  She is eligible for parole in 2014.




Disputed Facts:


1. The question of whether or not Susan killed Jeff is not at stake in this case.  Susan has admitted to the fact that she killed him.  What is in question is the issue of if it was self-defense, based on Susan's claims of abuse and possibly bringing in the issue of temporary insanity.


2.  Susan claimed from the beginning and  throughout her trial was that while she realized she had buried Jeff in the backyard she believed him to be still alive.  Susan had told some people they had an argument and he left.  She also filed a restraining order against Jeff after he was already dead, stating she feared his return.


3. During her trial it was alleged, through Susan, and even family of Jeff's (who was by no means defending Susan) that her father had been abusive to her mother throughout their marriage.  Her mother and father denied this.  Her sister confirmed the abuse but stated that while she and her mother were abused she did not think Susan had done more than witnessed the abuse.


4. Prosecutors claimed Susan killed Jeff in hopes of obtaining $200,000 in a life insurance policy.  Defense claimed she killed him after years of abuse and to protect her and her children.


5. Prosecutors had a bed entered and assembled into the courtroom.  They re-created what they believed it happened, including tying someone to the bed.  Prosecutors claimed that the 193 stab wounds were deliberate and at one point accused Susan of "knicking" at Jeff's penis.  Susan denied this claim stating she was basically on auto-pilot, and believed as she stabbed he was still coming after her.


My Opinion:


This case became a he said/she said case almost immediately, even though the he was dead. Like so many cases, those against Susan found Jeff to be the most caring and understanding person.  Susan, and those for her claimed he was a drug using monster who kept his family in fear.


Susan has always claimed that Jeff abused illegal drugs.  An autopsy reportedly revealed traces of cocaine but the date rape drug GHB was also found in his system.  Prosecutors used this to so premeditation on Susan's part saying she drug him so she could over power him.  GHB is also known to be used by bodybuilders.  It apparently was common knowledge among friends and family that Jeff did in fact have a history of drug abuse. At dispute is whether it was still an issue as Susan claimed.  Susan had claimed that because of the drug use Jeff was physically and verbally abusive to both her and their children.  She has claimed the night of his murder that he came home, high on drugs, and as per usual complained about the condition of the home and at some point had been overly rough with their son and had physically hurt him.  


It is often hard to argue for or against insanity, especially temporary insanity.  Susan's defense was that she did not fully understand exactly what she was doing as she was stabbing Jeff and that while she stabbed him 193 times, in that process she believed him to still be alive.  She then dragged his body outside and placed him in a hole that Jeff had dug beside the back porch.  He had planned to put a fountain in the area.  Susan claims that even at this time she believed Jeff to still be alive and that this thought continued through the next week.  Prosecutors argued that this form of insanity or lack of memory was a ploy and was faked by Susan.  Susan claims that while obviously Jeff was dead, and all but buried in the backyard that she still had a belief in her mind that he was still alive and would be coming after her in a rage.

I do believe that Susan came from an abusive household in childhood.  I recall seeing her mother's testimony at her trial in which this was addressed.  She denied these claims, but it was the way she denied them that bothered me more.  I do believe that Susan saw her mom be submissive to her father and may have led her to remain with Jeff longer than she would have otherwise. I tried to find something to confirm this and in a quick search I could not, however, unless I am mistaken, it has been reported that at some point throughout the marriage Susan had left Jeff and returned to her parents' home.  This did not last long due to her parents, especially her mother, despite allegations of abuse pushed her to return to Jeff.  This was often the thoughts when it came to marriage of those of Susan's parents' generation.  While today it seems absurd, the idea of divorce was not an option to older generations, even based on any kind of abuse (besides desertion).  


Do I believe Jeff was abusive?  I cannot say for certain.  Again it becomes another one of those issues in which a person is not likely as bad as some say, nor as good as others say.  Obviously Jeff's drug use was documented so we should take that as a fact.  It is also obviously commonly known that drug use can cause rage and often abuse, so it is possible.  


Do I believe Susan killed him in self-defense?  That is a tougher question.  As domestic violence laws have changed over the years they have included allowing pleas of self defense when there is not an immediate threat of violence or at least perceived in the traditional way meaning that the abuse was occurring that minute.  


One thing I can argue is that I believe that the re-sentencing trial for Susan was senseless.  First it was granted on the basis of ineffective council.  I fail to understand how one can get a re-trial in sentencing based on this, yet not a complete retrial, seeing as it was the same council.  I also feel that for the loss of 5 years off her original sentence was not cost effective to the county.  Of course "Pro Susan" people would argue this point.  

There was often a lot of talk about the actions of the prosecutor, Kelly Sigler.  I have seen interviews with her on this case, as well as other cases.  I could sit here and tell you that I thought she was extremely harsh in this case and may have stretched some issues and that I do not like her. Well, I can tell you that I think she was harsh and may have stretched issues based on her feelings more than she may have been able to factually prove.  But, I cannot say that I do not like her. I think she is very passionate about cases, whether it be to prove someone guilty or innocent.  I believe that she wholeheartedly believes she is fair.  I have seen excerpts of this trial, especially when she was cross examining Susan while she was on the stand.  It is rare a defendant in a murder trial will testify in their own behalf.  It is generally believed the only reason a defendant will do so is because either they a) are completely innocent and wants to make sure the court knows this fact or b) they are so arrogant as to believe they can tell a story full of lies and be believed.  In this case Sigler has said she basically thought it was scenario b. However, I will give Sigler credit as she did believe that the dynamics of at the very least Susan's childhood were pretty close to Susan's claims.  She has stated though that she found it no baring on the murder, and I have to tend to agree, at least to an extent.  One area that I do disagree in how Sigler handled this case dealt with hammering the fact that for two months, prior to her marriage, Susan had worked as an exotic dancer.  If I remember correctly Susan had stated she had done it to help pay for school but she did not continue as she basically did not like the job.  Sigler seemed to continually bring this subject up, especially when Susan was on the stand and accused Susan of faking distaste for some of the things Susan said Jeff expected her to do sexually based on the fact that she had been an exotic dancer... for a whole whopping two months. She would mention or use sarcasm when talking about things that were not related to the murder when they put Susan in a bad light but fought back about other things that, also were all but unrelated to the murder, that could put her in a good light or explain her emotional wellbeing, even things she later agreed were likely true.  Yes, yes, she did her job.



Susan is eligible for parole in 2014... based on past cases and the media surrounding this one, I do not see her being released.  I do hope that she has learned to like herself while she has been in prison and if she is released can be a good society member.

Comments

  1. "Do I believe Susan killed him in self-defense? That is a tougher question. "

    For me, that is the easy part of this case.... hard to claim self defense against someone whom you have drugged, and then stabbed 193 times..... unless, he DID come back to threaten her life between stabs 192 and 193....

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    1. I can tell you have never been a victim of spousal abuse, it messes with your mind

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    2. Sigler felt threatened by Mrs. Wrights beauty.

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    3. Susan had low self-esteem. Susan being shy and having a low self-esteem went against her in court. It does make since that these type of personality types tend to attract to the abusive dominate type of personality. Stigler in kept reflecting on Susan's appearance. Sigler felt threatened by Susan's looks. Sigler had a dominating personality and used that in court. Susan had poor communication skills, which can be attributed with her low self-esteem.

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    4. I just watched the movie and I feel she didn't have a fair trial. Abuse is very difficult and as a former victim I believe her.

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  2. I depends Kim. There are laws on the books that allow self defense for battered women even when it's not immediate danger... not that I necessarily agree.. but they are there. In essence some states allow someone to "snap" as they say because they have had enough. Look at Francine Hughes... I.E The Burning Bed. What about that case?

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  3. Wasnt her husband drunk in the bed after beating her? I dont think this lady had any proof of abuse, did she? I'd have to look up the case briefs. I dont think drugging someone to kill them is snapping over an abuse episode.

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    1. There is no proof that she drugged him. He could have came home already drugged in a rage wanting to beat on her and she could have snapped then. My point is there is no proof that she drugged him bcuz that is not the only way drugs can get in his system and it had been known he was a drug abuser.

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    2. I have to agree with you on this one Anonymous.

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  4. It depends on how you define snapped in a sense. He had GHB in his system and also cocaine. He was known to abuse cocaine. She claims he came in that night high on coke and had been overly rough with their son.

    As far as Francine Hughes... if I recall he was drunk all the time.

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  5. It's necessary to put ourselves in her shoes and consider her conditions. She was facing constantly a strong and threatening husband. The fact of the drug use leads me to feel that he was even more terrifying for her. Jeff was physically and verbally abusive to both her and their children. On her thoughts it was the only way to save themselves from an unavoidable end. It's crystal clear that she did it for fear because while she was stabbing him, she supposed he could be still coming after her.

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  6. Maybe she was abused but I don't believe she wasn't herself then. I've never been abused, yes, but even though domestic violence victims go thorough a traume, in this particular case there's a very important fact: At one point Susan stopped stabbing him and went out of the room to put her son back to bed, only to come back and start stabbing him again. That's the deal breaker for me. I got it, you snap, you stab, maybe once or twice. Not 193 times - including a time out in the middle. That's a joke. And she's eligible for parole?? That's crazy. She'll always be the killer of her children's father. The end.

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  7. I just watched the film related to this case, and looking at everything as a whole I believe that Susan did kill in self defense and it wasn't about the money at all. Susan lived a hard life, which too many women these days do. One of spousal abuse. Not only leading up to the murder was she struggling but even more so afterwards, as she became insane due to her re-percussing actions and the belief that she could still be harmed by her now deceased husband. The film may have shown Susan in a more positive light, but this situation is all too common. A woman is too scared to leave her husband due to the abuse and torture she will receive in the days coming, therefore murder is often the only option to protect herself and any children involved.

    Murder is in no means the answer to ones problems, but when one has suffered years of physical and emotional abuse and this has progressed into affecting ones children, should one really be put away for life in prison?

    I firmly believe the answer is no.

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  8. Well Susan told two different stories that concerns me: she told the doctor that Jeff was asleep, then she told her attorney that he was hovering over her screaming profanities?!

    She did some pretty sane things to be insane...In my opinion at least.

    However, no one knows the truth except Susan, Jeff (and he can't tell his side of the story), and God (who will be her final judge). So sad for the children...the kids really lose in the end!

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  9. I believe it was self defense a person can gain a lot of strength to be able to do the things she done when in fear for your life and even more so when you fear for your childs life. If this woman had done it for the life insurance she would have either made it look like an accident especially if she was of sound mind or a break in that resulted in his death. She would not and will not receive the money if she murdered him anyone with common sense knows that. So if it was really for the money why would she admit to killing him? Even if she did know it was there insurance don't pay out unless it's an accident or murder by another party that is no way hired by the spouse or beneficiary. This girl was not thinking of the money or she would have known that and took a different route to ensure she got the money. I honestly believe she protecting her self and children she honestly believed there was no other way it may not have been happening at that exact moment but it doesn't mean it didn't happen at all. Just because she didn't go to the doctor didn't mean it did not happen. Ask 100 abused women if they go to the doctor after being abused and if they do ask them if they tell their mate or spouse was the abuser one of those answers if not both will be no. This is because they know and fear of how bad they will be abused when the mate or spouse finds out. Anyone knows that even if you haven't been abused. There are even shelters and abused women are still afraid they Will be fiund in fact some have been and ended up dead. So what would you do? No it doesn't make it right but sometimes it is the only way. No one knows until your are in a situation like this. Kelly is a great prosecutor and I know was doing her job an extent but has obviously never been in a position to choose her and her children's life over anothers. I think she was harsh and went way to far and out of control on this case. She failed to look beyond the FACTS in this case.

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  10. Strong people can barely do a second set of 30 chest compressions in cpr. How long do you think it would take for this little woman to make 193 stabs? And abuse doesn't explain away the burial, use of bleach, ripping up carpet, painting, filing a restraining order after death. If she's not a sociopath, she's at least too dangerous to be on the streets. This was certainly not self defense. She should die in prison.

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  11. I was thinking a lot about the case and I watched parts of the trial and the movie and there are a lot of inconsistent details. Like the abuse started when she was pregnant! And at the end it paints a picture of her flirting with her new lawyer! I feel that really she was trapped. She did try to leave but he wouldn't let her. He didn't even want her and the kids! But she was his and the kids were his property! God it's so sick! According to his father he was trying to do right by her and the kids but is it right to take out your anger and frustration out on his family. If he was so unhappy he should have ended it or here's an idea Let Her Leave!!! He was controlling and abusive, I do believe that he bent and bent her until she finally snapped!

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  12. That harsh she not a sociopath she was abused and u would nor defend him if he killed her would you

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  13. I can't believe some of the theatrics that are allowed into American Courts. The bed repeated stabbing etc. A person in a frenzy and blitz knife attack is totally different to a lawyer calmly and slowly using a knife to re-enact the crime. Those knife wounds would have occurred fast and furious, this poor women by her very actions proves that she was temporarily insane

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  14. I can't believe some of the cheap antics that are played out in American courts. The knife attack is called a blitz attack it is fast and very furious, the number of knife wounds confirms her fear that he wasn't dead yet. When the lawyers who are very calm and very collected reenact the attack it's like comparing apples and pears. Cheap shots about her being a stripper which she did for only two months. The work that she did is irrelevant even prostitutes have right including the right to not be battered or abused, so what ever she did should not have been repeated over and over by the prosecution. I think more investigation was warranted regarding his fathers behaviour towards his wife, this man learnt to abuse and treat women like shit from someone and it's usually their fathers.

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  16. Kelly Sigler won me over with this specific case. I remember a show that covered this trial playing the very very beginning of the cross examination. The very first question Sigler asked Wright was this: "Have you ever lied to avoid getting in trouble?" Wright very meekly said "No, I can't say I ever have."
    At first I wondered about this tactic, but then I realized what a genius approach this was. Immediately Sigler portrayed Wright as a liar, with the very FIRST question. We've ALL lied to avoid getting into trouble, and Wright couldn't even admit that. It was a brilliant move.

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    1. Susan is innocent!!!!! That man abused her. She acted in self defense. Stigler made assumptions about how it played out and she used that ad entertainment for the jurors and judge. FREE SUSAN WRIGHT!!! She was a victim of abuse. Stigler if your child was "Susan" how would you feel.... I'm just saying. You're wrong. I believe Stigler just wanted that publicity even though she knew she was defending someone who abuse women!

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