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Judge resets hearing for man charged in killing of former Hawks player

Lorenzen Wright, left, is shown during his second stint with the Atlanta Hawks.
Lorenzen Wright, left, is shown during his second stint with the Atlanta Hawks.

A judge set a new hearing date Wednesday in the Lorenzen Wright murder case to give lawyers time to prepare expert witness schedules for a trial or even reach a plea deal in the slaying of the former Hawks player nine years ago in Memphis, Tennessee.

»PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Arrest made in murder of former Hawk Lorenzen Wright

A trial date could be scheduled at a new Jan. 15 hearing for Billy Ray Turner, Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee said.

Lawyers have said a trial date could be set for summer 2020. A previous trial date of Sept. 16 was postponed because of new evidence presented to Turner's defense.

Turner, a convicted felon, has pleaded not guilty to murder and conspiracy in Wright's death. The retired NBA player's decomposing body was found riddled with gunshot wounds in a swampy field in southeast Memphis in July 2010. He had been missing for 10 days before his body was found.

Billy Turner appears in front of a judge on May 30, 2018, at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center in Memphis, Tenn. Turner, a convicted felon, is charged with conspiring with Lorenzen Wright's ex-wife to kill the retired NBA player.
Billy Turner appears in front of a judge on May 30, 2018, at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center in Memphis, Tenn. Turner, a convicted felon, is charged with conspiring with Lorenzen Wright's ex-wife to kill the retired NBA player.

Credit: Yalonda M. James

Credit: Yalonda M. James

A Memphis native, the 6-foot, 11-inch Wright played 13 seasons for the Memphis Grizzlies and four other NBA teams, including two stints with the Atlanta Hawks: from 1999 to 2001 and again from 2006 to 2008.

Turner, as well as Wright's ex-wife, were indicted in December 2017. Sherra Wright entered a surprise guilty plea to facilitation of murder in June. Coffee sentenced her to 30 years in prison.

Sherra Wright listens as prosecutor Paul Hagerman reads a list of evidence against her during a July 25 court hearing in the death of former Hawks player Lorenzen Wright.
Sherra Wright listens as prosecutor Paul Hagerman reads a list of evidence against her during a July 25 court hearing in the death of former Hawks player Lorenzen Wright.

Credit: Jim Weber

Credit: Jim Weber

In a brief court hearing Wednesday, Coffee said lawyers could work to settle the case before the next hearing.

While a plea agreement with prosecutors is a possibility in any court case, there have been no negotiations on an established plea agreement, defense attorney John Keith Perry said.

Perry said he was “gearing for trial.” Perry is working to coordinate schedules for “50, 60” witnesses to appear at a possible trial, he said outside the courtroom.

Turner pleaded guilty in June to possessing a weapon as a convicted felon. Prosecutors say Turner had two guns when he was charged with Wright's killing. Turner has been sentenced to 16 years in prison on the separate gun charge.

Turner, a landscaper in the Memphis suburb of Collierville, attended the same church as Sherra Wright. Witnesses said Sherra Wright was the mastermind of a plan to have two men kill Lorenzen Wright at his Atlanta home, but that attempt failed, according to an affidavit.

Sherra Wright and Turner then conspired to kill the ex-player in Memphis, and they dumped one of the guns used in the shooting in a north Mississippi lake, authorities have said.

A gun that was allegedly used in the killing was found in the lake weeks before charges were filed in the case.

»FROM 2017: Gun believed to have killed NBA player Lorenzen Wright found in Mississippi lake

Wright's mother, Debra Marion, has attended most of the many court hearings in her son's death — one of Memphis' most high-profile murder cases.  Marion said she hopes the trial will reveal more about Sherra Wright's involvement in her son's death. Marion said she is ready for a trial date to be set.

“I'm ready for an eye for an eye,” Marion said.