Wright’s mother testifies in death penalty hearing

By Josh Verges

Daphne Wright’s anger may stem from her father’s early death and from challenges growing up deaf and homosexual, witnesses said this morning as her defense lawyers tried to spare her life.

The parents of Wright’s victim, Darlene VanderGiesen, were the first to testify in the penalty phase. The jury will decide whether Wright lives or dies for the kidnapping, murder and dismemberment.

Like VanderGiesen, Wright was the first deaf child of hearing parents.

Wright’s mother, Carolyn Tucker, said she didn’t learn much sign language until her daughter was in high school. The defendant’s father though bonded with Wright after she was hospitalized with hepatitis at age 6.

Tucker said her husband was an abusive alcoholic, so she left him, but allowed him back into the home after he was diagnosed with cancer and given just months to live.

Wright, then in high school, was angry about her father’s disease, Tucker said, and ran away from home when he died, missing his funeral.

Defense lawyer Jeff Larson said in opening statements that Wright felt the same sense of abandonment when her lover, Sallie Collins, left her in late 2005. Wright killed VanderGiesen because of her friendship with Collins.

Tucker said she knew her daughter questioned her sexual identity in her early teens, but said she “never believed that Daphne was a lesbian,” partly due to their Pentecostal beliefs.

“No matter what she is, she’s my child and I love her and we all love her, so we never treated her any different,” Tucker said. “Within my heart, I don’t ever think she would be gay.”

Jurors were also told this morning that Wright’s only prior conviction was for a false fire alarm in 1987.

Mike McGrath, a clinical psychologist who evaluated Wright, will be back on the witness stand after lunch.

The defense could finish its argument today.

Wright would get death by injection only if all 12 jurors agree on that penalty.

(( Source:  Argus Leader ))

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