Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Sound and the Fury . . .

. . . signifying nothing.

Word is that a jury has just sentenced Susan Wright to 20 years on her punishment retrial for stabbing her husband, Jeff Wright 193 times.

The reality is that the change in her sentence is minimal in the big scheme of things. She received 25 years the first time, and after monumental legal wrangling, she got just a five year discount. She'll be eligible (not entitled) to parole two and a half years early.

I know that prosecutors Connie Spence and John Jordan did an excellent and thorough job.

I know that defense attorneys Jon Munier and Tommy LaFon also did an excellent and thorough job.

But the bottom line is that this case involved trashing the reputations of Neal Davis and Todd Ward, when they didn't deserve it. They did a thorough and good job the first time around. They made judgment calls during the first trial that, quite frankly, I agreed with from a defense standpoint.

Jeff's family, who are some of the sweetest people I've ever met, had to go through this all again. Jeff's children, now beginning to approach their teenage years, may have to be shielded more from the spotlight that the retrial has cast upon them.

All for a five year discount from the first trial.

Hopefully, Susan Wright will be happy that she's at least eligible for parole a little earlier.

Because I think we all know that at the end of the day, we don't want to make Susan angry.


27 comments:

Anonymous said...

You left out the part where all this was TRULY about was Brian Wice's bottomless shoulder-padded ego. The HCCLA should take back their award if they truly believe a defense lawyer's job is to zealously represent his client as opposed to himself.

BLACK INK said...

This was, simply put, an excessive waste of Harris County resources that should have been much better spent elsewhere.

On the bright side, at least Wright's children won't have to be remanded to their baby mama's custody and Connie and John won't have to interview for new employment before Christmas as a result of Wice's folly.

Anonymous said...

The more significant fact is that the jury found that Wright did NOT act in sudden passion, which is what Wice claimed the jury would do if only they could have heard a bit more evidence.

Anonymous said...

So... who do you hold accountable? The new defense lawyers? Why not get mad at current prosecutors, for not agreeing to a lower sentence?

Rage

Anonymous said...

I'm with Rage on this one. Sometimes prosecutors need to know when to give an inch... even to a woman who stabbed her husband 193 times. You're right, Murray. What's five years? Couldn't prosecutors concede that much in plea bargaining?

Anonymous said...

Hind sight is 20/20. So lets say that the prosecutors decided to save all this hassle and lessen her sentence by 5 years...would she have accepted or still pushed for a new trial? Would others currently sentenced and serving time also demand the same reduction, where does that line start forming? Can we just move on and get some dockets caught up and empty out county jail before we bother retrying the already guilty?....sheesh

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would a prosecutor give a better deal to a guilty person? That's a ridiculous notion.
Trial punishment is a roll of the dice sometimes. You have to have the stomach for it, and most Monday morning quartetbackers don't.

Anonymous said...

You can't fix stupid. I'll bet the defense turned down offers of 20 at both trials......any takers?

David said...

Who's to say Susan Wright would have accepted a lower sentence, if the prosecutors had offered. Could it be she would not have agreed to a sentence more than 10 years?

Anonymous said...

"Based on the trial judge's findings in open court and our review of the record, we find that counsel rendered ineffective assistance during the punishment phase of trial."
"We decline to adopt the trial judge's written findings of fact and conclusions of law because either they are not supported by the record or they are contrary to law."
Slip opinion, 10/28/09; Cause No. AP76425. Unpublished!!!!! Per Curiam!!!!!
The trial prosecutors and defense attorneys at the trial and the "retrial" ostensibly did their job as did the Court of Appeals; Brian Wice clearly did his job. What is lacking from this scenario is the absolute failure of the Court of Criminal Appeals to do its job. The above succinct opinion, unknown to most members of the bar as to its purported "jurisprudence", from the Austin court provides neither the bench nor bar with a scintilla of guidance as to why relief was actually granted and as to how to avoid such results in the future. In that respect it is similar to the "doble secret probation" in Animal House. One can only speculate as to how much review actually was given by the court or was this opinion a product of the infamous basement judiciary?
Calvin Hartmann

Anonymous said...

3:32:
Think a lot harder before you start typing. Do you really think Susan Wright would have ever taken 20 years even if it had been offered? She was going for broke and taking a big risk doing. Murray called it right- it was basically a draw.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Rage and Anon on this one. Just because she gets a new trial doesn't mean you should invade the province of the original jury that had to decide guilt and punishment the first time. The jury of her peers said 25. So anyone that wins a motion for new trial should automatically get offered less? This wasn't an appellate issue that reversed the guilt/innocence phase because the jury heard something they shouldn't have, etc. It was murder. Now they just had to decide the punishment again - not her guilt. How do you negate what a previous jury said? Just because she argued for a new punishment hearing? Because her original lawyers didn't put Jerome Brown on the stand because it would clash with the testimony she gave in trial in guilt/innocence? Note how she didn't testify this time... Hindsight is 20/20. If we're supposed to respect juries, then respect their sentence and why offer less if there's no flaw in the State's evidence. The only problem was the supposed lack of defense evidence. She got a second bite at the apple and it didn't yield all that much.

Anonymous said...

1. Dr. Jerome Brown and Misty McMichael were less than persuasive at the writ hearing, as the 48 Hours episode evidenced. Even Judge Wallace told Wice that he needed to take five minutes in the middle of his examination of Misty because she was such a bad witness.

2. Hardly a “breakdown in the adversarial process” was demonstrated at the writ hearing.

3. I believe Judge Wallace split the baby and granted a new sentencing hearing because of politics. At the time he issued his ruling, the Dems had swept under Obama and, being the consummate politician he is, Judge Wallace saw a chance to get some publicity during election season. Hence, the late October sentencing date he set.

4. If anyone doubts Judge Wallace does not attract to the media, look at the size of his name on his bench. He had his name blown up so that it could be easily read on television.

5. Like Calvin said, the CCA was asleep on the job. The opinion made no sense, and I think the CCA seemed to just want avoid throwing itself in the fray, since only a new sentencing hearing was ordered.

6. In Susan’s sentencing re-trial, Dr. Brown and Misty McMichael were even worse witnesses, if that is possible, then they were at the writ hearing. Her original defense team was right not to call them. They would have been lethal under Kelly’s relentless cross-examinations.

7. I believe this jury gave Susan 20 years because: (1) the jury knew she had gotten 25 years at her prior trial, and (2) the judge told the jury she was being re-sentenced because of new witnesses who would testify. It is no surprise the jury cut her a slight break because they knew the score.

8. The verdict is negligible, a wash. Susan was still found guilty of MURDER, not manslaughter, and sentenced to ONLY 5 years less. Who cares, she ain’t gonna see parole as long as the Wrights are around.

9. At the end of the day, Brian Wice, Judge Wallace, and the CCA were wrong: no breakdown in the adversarial process occurred. The jury verdict, which re-affirms the original verdict, proves this. But Brian Wice got awards and Judge Wallace will get re-elected.

10. So, as Murray said, the post-conviction proceedings and re-sentencing were “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Except maybe a waste of time and taxpayer dollars…

Anonymous said...

I guess we'll never know if she would have taken less, as I doubt it was offered.

Either way, some cases just need to be tried. There was enough risk for both sides to agree to a plea. But enough ego to ensure one would never be reached.

Rage

Anonymous said...

Susan Wright was going after a not guilty in the first trial and probation in the new sentencing hearing. No way she was going to accept 20 years in an offer. She still doesn't admit she did anything wrong. I wonder how much that 5 years less cost her family in attorney fees?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much that 5 years less cost her family in attorney fees?

How much would you pay to stay out of jail for five years?

Rage

Anonymous said...

I think to a prisoner who didn't get to present her entire defense, a second bite at the apple was huge to her. Also, a 1/5 reduction in sentence to someone who is doing the time was likely perceived by her as a huge gift. I remember all the talk when this case was first overturned about how Ms. Wright was going to be sorry she went back to trial and have to giggle when I see those same folks try to minimize her reduction in sentence.

Anonymous said...

Going to have to agree with Rage on this one. The tax payers paid for the battle of the egos on this trial. Anything less that 25 was a victory for the defense. 5 less years years in prison is no draw in the eyes of the person doing the time.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wice, you did your job and you did it well for Susan Wright. Its too bad your zeal can't be appreciated on this blog because it comes from the side of the defense. The defense lawyers in the trial case were awesome this time around as well.

Anonymous said...

I watched Susan's first trial and remember thinking at the time that her attorneys were awful, and substantially unmatched. I'm not suprised at all that her punishment (at the very least) was overturned.

Anonymous said...

Do NOT give Brian Wice one bit of credibility. He dropped Susan in the grease the minute he realized that the DA's Office wasn't going to roll over and give her probation. He's a POS and will always be a POS. If you want to give kudos to the people who helped her, then give them to the person who deserves them, Jonathan Munier.

Anonymous said...

"Its too bad your zeal can't be appreciated on this blog because it comes from the side of the defense."

From the... Defense?

The zeal on this blog is from the defense?

Dummy say what?

Rage

Anonymous said...

No Rage,

Wice's zeal, being defense zeal, can't be celebrated on this very pro prosecution blog.

Also, it would be a shame not to mention the stellar skills of Tommy Lafon this time around.

Anonymous said...

"I watched Susan's first trial and remember thinking at the time that her attorneys were awful, and substantially unmatched. I'm not suprised at all that her punishment (at the very least) was overturned."

If they were "awful and unmatched," then why did the jury sentence her to 25 years instead of what the State asked for?

If they perfomred so poorly, why was the same verdict basically reached again?

If they were really that bad, why didn't Wallace order a new guilt-innocence hearing?

The bottom line is, as John Jordan said, the verdicts reached were essentially the same, and justice was done. In the end she's gonna do about the same amount of time, given that before the parole board would have cut her some slack but now will not cut her any.

Anonymous said...

Every defense lawyer has a different style. Unless a lawyer's style is to sleep through trial or not prepare for it, we ought not to be Judging the choices made at the time.

I watched a significant amount of both trials and saw nothing more than very different styles. I don't understand the hatred for Brian Wice doing his job and I can't understand how anyone can think that a lesser sentence is not a victory for the defense.

Anonymous said...

It took mucho cojones to go to trial again, knowing that the new jury was not bound by the original 25 year sentence. I smiled from ear to ear knowing that the 20 rose Nancy Grace's blood pressure to the roof! Wice did what he had to do to get a new trial, and I bet anyone one of us in the Defendant's position would have told him to do what he had to do. Shoot, my ego would be huge too if I had gotten a new punishment hearing on this case!!!!
BTW I bet the Defendant didn't and wouldn't agree to diddly squat on re-trial

Anonymous said...

To the Giggler: If the parole board rectifies the jury's error by denying parole, will you still be giggling? Don't you know that feigned amusement is a tell for frustration and anger?