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Quote of the Day - Commit a crime and the earth is made of glass. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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You Be The Judge: Approve A Courtroom Stabbing Reenactment?

You be the judge:  the prosecutor wants to stage a reenactment of how a wife stabbed her husband some 200 times.  The prosecutor proposes to bring in the blood-stained mattress, use a "husband" approximately the same height and size as the now-deceased husband, and "act" to show the jurors how she proposes the wife used the knife, straddling the husband on the mattress. 

In a Texas courtroom.

Defense objects on the basis that the State has no personal knowledge of how the murder happened, and cannot stage an accurate reenactment.  Defense also claims the reenactment is more prejudicial than probative.  In other words, the defense attorney believes that the jurors will be unduly influenced by, among other things, the blood-stained mattress and some two-hundred swings of the knife. 

How do you rule? 

Now that you have, let's add in just a few more facts for you:  Defendant Susan Wright admits she stabbed her husband, Jeff Wright, one hundred and ninety-three times.  She claims, however, that she started stabbing him in self-defense after her husband raped her.  The prosecutor claims that Susan instead planned the murder, seducing her husband and tying him to the bed, and proposed to stage the reenactment to demonstrate to the jurors how Ms. Wright tied her husband up before stabbing him. 

Here are some other tidbits you might want to consider before ruling, directly from the appellate opinion:  "On Saturday, January 18, 2003, officers from the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office investigated a report of a dead body in the yard of the Wright home.  In the backyard, they discovered Jeff Wright's partially-buried body in a shallow hole next to a patio.  The officers also found a mattress, box springs, comforter and headboard in the backyard.  The mattress was soaked with blood. Inside the home, one wall of the master bedroom had been freshly painted and a piece of the carpet had been cut out; painting supplies, a box cutter, and scissors were found in the room.  Blood spatters were seen on the curtains and other items in the bedroom.  A receipt for two gallons of bleach, bleach-stained size 6 jeans, and a towel also were found."  The police found these alleged "cover-up" materials five days after Jeff was killed.

Not to be grisly (and you've been forewarned), but if you want more facts, click on that last link and scroll down to the second paragraph of the "Factual Background."  There are some other points, such as how he was tied up, that you'll want to know in considering your opinion.

Did I forget to mention that there was a recently-acquired $200,000 policy on Jeff's life?

The trial court ruled in favor of the demonstration, which was upheld by the court of appeal.  My bet, however, is that your initial reaction was to uphold the objections and deny the prosecutor's request to reenact the murder, but after you read more about how the murder was committed, you changed your mind. 

Should the facts have that kind of influence on the ruling?

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Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, November 26, 2005 at 12:40 Comments Closed (3) |
 
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