Category Archives: Wright Case

Reasons for Appeal in Wright Case listed in Legal Brief

Daphne Wright is currently appealing her conviction.  The following is a legal brief submitted in the State of South Dakota vs. Daphne Wright case that lists reasons for the appeal.  (Kudos to Miska Zena).

Docket #2531:  No. 1
Case Name: State v. Wright

#24531  WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 2009– NO. 1  State v. Wright

In August of 2004, Daphne Wright lived in Sioux Falls with her girlfriend, Sallie Collins.  They initially lived in Jackie Chesmore’s home, but Collins moved out in September.  Both Collins and Wright were deaf, and Collins moved into an apartment complex known within the deaf community as the “deaf apartments.”  While living there, Collins became friends with Darlene VanderGiesen, who was also deaf.

Wright became jealous of the friendship between VanderGiesen and Collins, and Wright also thought VanderGiesen was trying to destroy Wright’s relationship with Collins.  On February 1, 2006, Wright set up a meeting with VanderGiesen at a Pizza Hut, allegedly to plan a Valentine’s Day surprise for Collins.  Wright admitted meeting VanderGiesen at Pizza Hut’s parking lot that evening at 6:00 p.m. VanderGiesen was not seen again.  Two days later, VanderGiesen’s father reported that his daughter was missing.

While police were investigating VangerGiesen’s disappearance, Chesmore and Wright voluntarily drove together to the Sioux Falls law enforcement center to be interviewed.  There the police employed the use of a certified sign language interpreter for Wright’s interview.  The police interviewed Wright from 10:49 a.m. until 12:54 p.m., at which time the State acknowledges that Wright unequivocally asked for a lawyer.  Wright remained at the law enforcement center in the interrogation room without a lawyer, however, from 12:54 p.m. until 6:10 p.m., while police officers obtained and executed a search warrant for Wright’s home and vehicle.  At the conclusion of the search, Wright left the law enforcement center.  Wright was never advised of her Miranda rights.

Wright was arrested and subsequently charged with murder in the first degree (premeditated murder), murder in the second degree (felony murder), and aggravated kidnapping in connection with VanderGiesen’s death.

Prior to trial, a psychologist recommended and Wright requested the use of a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) to interpret the testimony to Wright consecutively, rather than simultaneously.  The trial court denied Wright’s request.  Instead of employing a CDI to interpret consecutively, the court provided five certified sign language interpreters and employed “real time” captioning, in which every word the court reporter transcribed was projected onto a computer screen for everyone to observe.  Separate interpreters were provided for counsel and for the court proceedings.  At Wright’s request, the trial was also videotaped.

The State offered evidence at trial regarding the officers’ execution of the search warrant, which included blood, bone and tissue samples from Wright’s vehicle and the basement of Wright’s home.  The State laboratory confirmed the presence of VanderGiesen’s D.N.A. in these samples.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all three counts, but declined to recommend the death penalty.  Wright was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on the first degree murder and kidnapping convictions.  No sentence was imposed on the felony murder conviction.

Wright appeals the following issues:

1. Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying Wright’s motion to   suppress statements made during the interview at the law enforcement center.

2. Whether the trial court should have granted Wright’s request for consecutive interpretation during the trial and provided a CDI.

3. Whether the trial court’s system of selecting jurors, in which African-Americans were under-represented, violated Wright’s constitutional rights.

4. Whether the trial court erred in allowing evidence of a prior altercation concerning Wright, VanderGiesen, and Collins.

5. Whether there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdicts of felony murder and premeditated murder.

6. Whether Wright’s kidnapping conviction violates double jeopardy.

7. Whether cumulative error denied Wright a fair trial.

Mr. Lawrence E. Long, Attorney General, Ms Meghan N. Dilges, Assistant Attorney General, Attorneys for Plaintiff and Appellee, State of South Dakota

Ms. Traci Smith, Office of the Minnehaha County Public Defender, Attorney for Defendant and Appellant, Daphne Wright

(( Source: ))