The Pinellas Country capital murder trial of Ralph “Ron” Wright Jr. continues this week, the fourth week of trial. The case was submitted to the jury for deliberation and jurors in the trial deliberated for 12 hours before recessing for the night.
After about seven hours, the jurors told the trial judge that their votes were stuck at 10-2. They did not advise the judge which verdict had gathered 10 votes. They continued to deliberate for three more hours before being sequestered in a hotel overnight.
Wright is accused of strangling his former lover, Paula O’Conner, and smothering their 15-month-old son, Alijah. Prosecutors alleged Wright murdered them to keep from paying child support. Three weeks before the killings, Wright was served with papers in the MacDill Air Force Base parking lot informing him that O’Conner was suing for child support.
Wright has been charged with capital murder for O’Conner’s death. Prosecutors called two forensic expert witnesses at trial to discuss a glove found at the murder scene and its DNA. The state also alleges the glove is identical to gloves issued to Wright’s police unit at MacDill, where he served.
The burden of proof rests on the prosecution and it is a very high burden. The state is not required to prove motive as an element of murder. Whether the jury will believe the motive evidence is more convincing than the questionable DNA evidence is yet to be seen.
Juries are provided with detailed instructions which guide their deliberations. For each charge they are considering, an instruction requires them to find that each and every element of the crime has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. And their verdict must be unanimous.
In order to find Wright guilty of first-degree murder, the jury will have to find that the State proved the elements of first-degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Namely, the jury has to find (1) that O’Conner was dead, (2) that the death was caused by the criminal act of Wright and that (3) the killing was premeditated.