Rocker Dad Murder Trial: Today’s Biggest Headlines

THE VERDICT will likely come down Monday morning.

But James R. Wright’s family can be assured there won’t be a hung jury in District Judge William E. White’s courtroom.

Wright, a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, was killed in North Carolina on March 25, 2014 when he was trapped in his moving vehicle. Investigators testified that a thief dumped Wright’s vehicle on railroad tracks near a bridge.

White is expected to accept either guilty or not guilty verdicts from the jury who retired for the weekend Saturday after about 18 hours of deliberations. The jury’s verdict must come within 30 minutes of the announcement from White or the trial will continue Monday.

James R. Wright Sr.

Judge White, who takes in court only matters to which the jury is exclusively involved, will retire. He plans to return to the bench Monday morning, and Wright Sr. also is expected to be on the stand for several hours to detail his son’s final moments.

Prosecutors gave closing arguments in the case Friday morning. Wright Sr. has been in the courtroom most of the trial and is expected to take the stand. He will take the stand again Monday morning.

Prosecutors portrayed Wright as a kind, caring man and asked jurors to consider his mind state when the thief dumped his truck at the railroad bridge over the Yadkin River and tampered with a truck that was not parked near his son’s parked vehicle. Wright Sr. told his son and another Navy reservist, Daniel Keo, he could make it to the bridge. When Keo got there after a nine-hour drive, he found their vehicle was not near the bridge and saw blood in the trunk and other areas of the vehicle.

Defense attorneys said the others in the convoy became paranoid and called police. The defendants were immediately arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter. Authorities determined Wright Jr. tried to tackle the thief, who then jumped into his vehicle and sped away.

State attorney Jerry Muir, who is prosecuting the case, asked jurors in his closing argument to find all the defendants guilty of voluntary manslaughter and to find none guilty of murder. Defense attorneys said their clients did not mean to kill Wright, and that evidence showed they fought for the stolen vehicles. They pointed to public records showing both were unarmed.

Suspect suffers overdose, extradition to New York

Magistrate Judge Bob Ewing filed a probable cause request Friday afternoon to extradite Wright Jr. to New York state to face charges that he led troopers on a high-speed chase that left one trooper injured and another dead on U.S. 301 in Watauga County on Jan. 20, 2014.

Wright Jr. is accused of recklessly ramming two state troopers’ cruisers and injuring trooper Christopher Briere. Troopers Sean Fox and Clinton E. Jones were wounded in the foot.

Ewing filed the request after Wright Jr. told the judge and his attorney his family moved to North Carolina so he could attend college without fear of extradition. He was hospitalized in South Carolina on Thursday morning and then returned to Durham.

Wright Jr. told Ewing he had not gone to school since his arrest because he “didn’t have the resources or time to go back.” He said he suffered a drug overdose in federal custody, and then another one in North Carolina before he was hospitalized in South Carolina. He suffered a third overdose in Arizona, then another in North Carolina. He could have a long recovery process from the heart medication he took.

Ewing said North Carolina authorities have jurisdiction because the highway where Wright Jr. was injured began in New York. And because Briere was killed in the crash, he is a state victim.

“In other words, the crimes for which you are charged are the vehicular nature,” Ewing told Wright Jr.

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