By Shawn Neisteadt
The Daphne Wright murder trial will take its next step tomorrow when both sides of the case argue whether Wright should receive the death penalty or be sentenced to life in prison. But before that can happen, the court had to finalize a motions hearing on hold since February.
Both the defense and prosecutors wanted to clear up what each side could cover in the death penalty portion of the case. Today, the defense did what it could to get the get the death penalty thrown out, but the judge rejected many of their motions.
Daphne Wright’s attorney, Jeff Larson argued the Supreme Court in Florida ruled a deaf defendant could not be sentenced to death. However, prosecutors pointed out, in that case, the death penalty was not allowed because the defendant had brain damage, and the defendant being deaf had nothing to do with the ruling. The judge denied the motion.
The defense also argued the state’s attorneyâ€™s office is racially motivated in seeking the death penalty because State’s Attorney Dave Nelson has never requested the death penalty in a case where the victim’s a minority.
Nelson said there’s one factor that sets this case apart from any other…and that is the defendant used a chainsaw to mutilate the victim’s body. Nelson then put his own reputation on the line by saying
“I will leave it up to the court to determine if I personally have been racially motivated,â€ said Nelson.
Judge Brad Zell had reviewed Nelson’s cases dating back to 1988, and says he could not find any racial patterns.
He said, “this court does not find any motivation by the state to treat this defendant any differently that any other person accused of committing this type of crime. The facts motivated the penalty in this case.”
The defense also asked the judge not to allow any discussion of the dismemberment of Darlene Vandergiesen during the penalty phase because it happened two or three days after she was killed. The judge also denied that request.
The sentencing portion of the trial begins Tuesday morning at nine. Each side will present its case. Then, it will be up to the jury to decide whether Daphne Wright will become the first woman on South Dakota’s death row.
(( Source: KELOLAND TV ))