Jury seated in former NBA player’s murder trial in Memphis

Mar 13, 2022, 6:07 PM | Updated: Mar 14, 2022, 3:26 pm
FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2018, file photo, defendant Billy Ray Turner makes an appearance in Judge Le...

FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2018, file photo, defendant Billy Ray Turner makes an appearance in Judge Lee V. Coffee's courtroom in Memphis, Tenn. Jury selection was set to begin Monday, March 14, 2022, in the trial of a man charged with killing former NBA player Lorenzen Wright, whose body was found in a swampy field nearly 12 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee. Billy Ray Turner has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy, and could face life in prison if convicted. (Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal via AP, File, File)

(Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal via AP, File, File)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Opening statements were set for Tuesday in the trial of a man charged with 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 was seated Monday in the trial of Billy Ray Turner, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy. Twelve of the 15 jurors will end up deciding whether to find Turner guilty or acquit him. He could face life in prison if convicted.

Opening statements in Turner’s trial could finally reveal key details about Wright’s slaying, one of the most highly publicized murder cases in Memphis history. His decomposing body was found riddled with bullet wounds 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-inch Wright played 13 seasons for the Memphis Grizzlies and four other NBA teams, after playing college basketball at the University of Memphis. He was retired from the league when he was killed.

Martin has been convicted of murder in a separate case. He also could testify during the trial.

Turner, 51, and Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright, were charged in December 2017 in the killing. She entered a surprise guilty plea to facilitation of 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 possessing two guns at the time of his 2017 arrest. Another gun police said was the murder weapon in Wright’s killing was found in a north Mississippi lake about two months before Turner and Sherra Wright were charged and arrested.

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

She and Turner then conspired to kill him in Memphis, authorities have 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 plot and that he helped Turner and Sherra Wright clean the crime scene, authorities said in the affidavit. Martin was convicted of murder in a separate case and could testify during the trial.

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

Prosecutor Paul Hagerman said the trial was expected to take a week to 10 days. The jury will be sequestered.

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

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Jury seated in former NBA player’s murder trial in Memphis