The Evidence Room, Episode 16 - “193″

A made-for-TV movie once dubbed Susan Lucille Wright ‘the blue-eyed butcher.’ But her international notoriety had less to do with what she did, and more to do with how she did it.

In 2003, Wright tied her husband Jeff to their bed and stabbed him 193 times. She buried his body in the backyard of their northwest Harris County home and returned to the bedroom to clean it with bleach and paint. Wright then went to the police, filed a domestic abuse complaint and sought a restraining order against the man she knew was already dead.

“This case is not about self-defense. This case is about selfishness,” prosecutor Kelly Siegler said during Wright’s trial in 2004.

Several days after the murder, Wright told her attorney what she had done. She claimed she was a battered wife and had killed Jeff in self-defense, but prosecutors argued Wright was after her husband’s life insurance policy.

A jury found Wright guilty of murder and sentenced her to 25 years in prison. An appeal of her sentence led to a new a punishment trial. Part of the appeal revolved around one of the most infamous images of the trial; Siegler brought the couple’s bed into the courtroom, tied up a fellow attorney, straddled him, and proceeded to demonstrate how long it took to carry out stabbing someone 193 times.

Prosecutor demonstrates in court how the murder took place. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“It was the defining moment of the trial,” said KPRC 2 legal analyst Brian Wice.

Catch up on previous episodes of ‘The Evidence Room’ here

Wice represented Wright in the appeal of her conviction and punishment. Part of Wice’s appeal claimed the recreation of the murder for the jury was ‘inherently prejudicial.’

“This was a case of recreating the second reel of ‘Basic Instinct’ because Kelly Siegler decided she could make up her own version, one that, in my estimation, wasn’t tethered at all to reality,” said Wice.

“Is it necessarily making a version or is it showing you the sheer ferocity it takes to stab another human being 193 times the time?” asked KPRC 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.

“I don’t think there’s any question about that. Look, and this is what I had to acknowledge, is that it was incredible courtroom theater, again, the defining moment of this trial. Does that mean that then-District Judge Jim Wallace should have permitted it? As I sit here today, all those many years later, no, I don’t think so,” said Wice.

Another portion of Wice’s appeals claimed her original defense attorneys did not present enough evidence of battered wife syndrome or call certain witnesses who testify to Jeff Wright’s behavior. Nonetheless, Wright’s conviction was upheld on appeal, but she won a new punishment trial. For the purposes of appeal, the law allows for the separation of the guilt or innocence trial and the punishment trial. This way, if a defendant is successful in appealing their punishment, there does not have to be a retrial of guilt or innocence.

Knives kept in the Harris County Criminal Court Archive, also known as The Evidence Room. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

During the second punishment trial, Wright again claimed self-defense and years of abuse; prosecutors called it ‘divorce by homicide.’ A second jury sentenced Wright to 20 years in prison, a five-year reduction from her initial sentence. Wright was paroled from prison in December 2020. She declined to speak with reporters.

“I think Susan, I’ve always believed, that in a moment of madness and a moment of what she believed was self-preservation, acted in the manner in which she did. Look, I think one of the narratives of this case that people will never be able to reconcile, even after two-plus decades, is what happened in that bedroom in West Houston that night. Was it a seduction? Was it a slaughter? Was it a woman doing what she could to save herself?” said Wice.

The KPRC 2 Investigates true crime docuseries ‘The Evidence Room’ is in its third season. It recently received honors from the 44th Annual Telly Awards, which honors “innovative, inclusive, and disruptive work that breaks through the static.”

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About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”