Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Brother on trial in killing of sister

He says accident; prosecutors say no

By Sharon Coolidge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

No one disputes Sean Wright shot his sister to death in November.

But as the 19-year-old man's trial on charges of murder and reckless homicide started in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Tuesday, his attorney and prosecutors disagreed about his intent when he pulled the trigger.

His attorney, Peter Rosenwald, said it was an accident. Sean Wright wanted to scare his sister and thought the gun was not loaded.

Prosecutors say Sean Wright fired in anger.

On Nov. 15, Sean Wright fatally shot his 17-year-old sister, Nicole Wright, moments after she said she wanted to kill herself, according to police.

"What Sean Wright did is have a substantial lapse of due care, a very bad mistake in judgment that cost him his sister's life," Rosenwald said during opening statements.

Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Jerome Kunkel says Sean Wright was reckless.

"The defendant was trying to scare his sister by pointing the gun at her and pulling the trigger," Kunkel said. "Instead of scaring her, he killed her."

Tuesday afternoon a sister, Laura Wright, and her boyfriend, John Armstrong, testified about what happened that night.

Sean Wright cried, dabbing his eyes with a tissue, as they recounted his sister's death.

Sean Wright and Laura Wright lived at 1411 Chase Ave., a Northside home they once lived in with their family. Their parents had recently moved with Nicole and several other brothers and sisters to Morrow to get away from the neighborhood, according to testimony. Nicole Wright, a Little Miami High School senior, was not to visit her brother and sister, her parents ordered.

The afternoon of Nov. 15, Sean Wright saw Nicole Wright nearby. When he came home that night and found his sister on the couch, he confronted her, asking her why she was in Northside.

"(Nicole Wright) said she was sick of people trying to tell her what to do," Laura Wright said.

"She said she was going to kill herself."

It was a threat Nicole Wright made often, Laura Wright said.

Sean Wright went upstairs and returned with a shotgun.

He tried to hand it to Nicole Wright, but she wouldn't take it.

"He said if you want to kill yourself - go ahead," Laura Wright recalled him telling their younger sister. "She said no, she would just take pills."

The gun was loaded and cocked and the safety was off, prosecutors said in their opening statements.

"You can't make a point with your sister about suicide and taking her own life unless you're going to go up and pull the trigger and make it click to scare her," Kunkel said.

The gun dangling from his right hand, Sean Wright asked: "Do you want me to do it?" Laura Wright recalled.

That's when the gun went off. Sean Wright stepped back from the force of the blast. The gun flew out of his hand and landed on the floor nearby, Armstrong said.

"I honestly think this was a mistake," said Armstrong. "He was just trying to make a point ... I really think it surprised the hell out of him."

Sean Wright called for help.

"My sister is dying," Sean Wright told the 911 dispatcher. "I didn't mean it. I was playing."

In the call, played for the jury, Wright also tells the dispatcher he thought the gun was unloaded.


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