By Josh Verges / Photo by Lloyd B. Cunningham
For her mother, Daphne Wright’s murder trial began and ended with race and disability.
Her daughter, who is black and deaf, was convicted of murder and kidnapping by a jury whose members shared neither of those traits.
Even after the same jury spared Wright’s life Wednesday night in favor of life imprisonment, Carolyn Tucker expressed frustration with the justice system, specifically the judge and prosecutor.
“My daughter was just sentenced to life in prison for something I don’t believe she did,” Tucker said in her first interview since the slaying.
She said Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Dave Nelson, who argued that Wright deserved to die for taking Darlene VanderGiesen’s life and mutilating her corpse, “doesn’t have a heart.”
“He’s got to understand that. He has children,” she said. “The devil’s above him.”
She and her husband, Jim Tucker, flew in from Maryland to watch some of the pretrial hearings and all but the first day of the trial.
Jim Tucker said he was disappointed with Judge Brad Zell, who he said seemed inexperienced. The judge denied several defense motions for mistrials, including one based on the racial composition of the jury pool.
The death penalty case was a first for all parties, from judge to the prosecution and defense.
Even after a defense lawyer adopted much of the state’s theory about the crimes while he asked jurors to spare Wright’s life, Carolyn Tucker said she feels police didn’t look at other suspects as well as they should have. If her daughter was guilty, she wouldn’t have gone to trial, she said.
“She said from day one she didn’t do it, and I believe her. I know she didn’t do it,” she said.
Tucker made it clear when she testified Tuesday, during the penalty phase of the trial, that she believed race played a role in the jurors’ minds.
Tucker’s mood improved after the sentencing when she was told the public defender’s office no longer needed their help.
“I hope as long as I live, I don’t have to come back to Sioux Falls,” she said.
(( Source: Argus Leader ))