Judge: Chain saw evidence allowed in Wright’s sentencing hearing

By Josh Verges

A judge rejected Daphne Wright’s argument this morning that evidence of chain-saw dismemberment should not be presented to jurors deciding whether she lives or dies.

Judge Brad Zell had already rejected a motion to that effect, but revisited it this morning after defense lawyer Jeff Larson found another case that supports his argument.

In order for the jury to even consider the death penalty, they must first find that Wright’s kidnapping, murder and dismemberment of Darlene VanderGiesen constitute “depravity of mind,” which is an aggravating factor by law.

Larson said the Tennessee Supreme Court decided mutilating a dead body can help prove a depraved mind at the time of the crime only if it happened soon after the victim is killed.

Prosecutors say Wright waited two days before dismembering VanderGiesen because she didn’t have money to buy a chain saw.

In arguing for the state, Keith Allenstein said Wright’s two-day delay “has nothing to do with a lack of depravity of mind as it does a lack of financial funds,” and may actually help the state prove the aggravating factor.

Zell again denied the defense motion, saying the concerns will be addressed in jury instructions. He said it’s up to the jury, not the judge, to decide if mutilation proves a depraved mind.

Wright was convicted on Thursday and will return to court Tuesday for the penalty phase.

(( Source:  Argus Leader ))

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