Doctors: Wright is fit for trial

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August 7, 2012
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August 7, 2012
NSU budget down 11 percent since 2010-11
August 7, 2012
Special Lafourche council meeting fails to meet quorum
August 7, 2012

The Thibodaux man accused of decapitating and dismembering his 7-year-old special-needs son nearly one year ago is ready to stand trial, doctors tasked with rehabilitating the man said in a court filing.

Jeremiah Lee Wright, 31, will appear at 9 a.m. Sept. 21 in Thibodaux’s District Courthouse, Division A. Judge John LeBlanc will determine whether Wright has the “mental capacity” to proceed to trial. He could also decide to appoint another sanity commission to study Wright’s mental state.

Doctors at the East Louisiana Mental Health System, whose forensics division in Jackson, La., spent nine months rehabilitating Wright, said he is fit to stand trial and has been “malingering” during examinations to determine his competency.

“As the Forensic Competency Evaluation and Report indicates, the issue of malingering has been thoroughly addressed by ELMHS,” the court filing says. “In four different objective evaluations which attempt to quantify either malingering or exaggeration, Wright was determined to have results consistent with malingering on three, with ELMHS finding on the fourth that his performance amounted to ‘irrelevant responding.’”

Kerry Cuccia, Wright’s court-appointed attorney, said he does not agree with the doctors’ findings, which he will dispute via court filings. Cuccia did not wish to discuss what he specifically disagrees with.

Cuccia stressed that this ruling does not take into account Wright’s mental health on Aug. 14, the day Jori was murdered.

“When the time comes, we’ll enter the plea that we think is appropriate,” Cuccia said. “I have no comment whatsoever about what his mental state was at the time of this offense.”

District Attorney Cam Morvant II said he wanted to peruse the doctors’ reports longer before commenting on their decision. He did say that he has retained a psychologist and psychiatrist to testify as expert witnesses.

“I’m just pleased that we, at this point, are beginning to move forward with some proceeding,” Morvant said.

Wright is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Jori Lirette. If convicted, Wright faces either life in prison or the death penalty. Morvant has not indicated what punishment he will pursue.

For now, Wright is being held in “protective custody,” isolated from other inmates, at the Lafourche Parish Detention Center, Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Brennan Matherne said.

Wright allegedly confessed to police that he killed Jori in their rented blue home at 414 W. Seventh St. on Aug. 14, 2011.

After Wright was apprehended at the home, he told investigators that he killed Jori because he was “tired of taking care of him,” and he left the child’s head near the street so Jesslyn Lirette, Wright’s live-in girlfriend and Jori’s mother, “could feel stupid” when she returned home, according to police statements, which are public record.

After a witness reported seeing Jori’s head near the roadside, the responding Thibodaux policeman found Wright on the home’s porch, “looking at the head with a blank expression,” according to police statements. The rest of Jori’s body was found dismembered in a garbage bag on the property.

Investigators recovered a saw, with blood on the blade, in a toolbox beneath the kitchen sink.

Two months after Jori’s death, LeBlanc ruled that Wright was mentally unfit to stand trial based on testimony by two court-appointed psychologists who evaluated the alleged killer. Wright was then sent to a mental health facility in Jackson, where forensic inpatient doctors worked to restore his competency.

The court-appointed psychologists who analyzed Wright separately – on Sept. 28 and Oct. 10, 2011 – wrote that he was “not competent” and “lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings.”

Five months after Jori was born, Jesslyn Lirette was granted a protective order against Wright. In a sworn statement written in September 2004, Jesslyn said Wright had called her and said “he was tired of seeing the baby suffer and wanted him dead,” Jesslyn wrote in a filing. In a protective order filed earlier that year, Jesslyn said Wright abused her emotionally and physically, including punching her in the head.

Wright had been arrested four times, according to the Louisiana Justice Network master file. His most recent arrest came in 2007 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Jori used a wheelchair and had cerebral palsy. He was born three months premature and was unable to speak, according to his family.

Jori was a second grader at South Thibodaux Elementary.

Family members said in last August that he loved to watch cartoons, particularly the “Toy Story” movie series and “SpongeBob SquarePants.” He also liked the thumping bass of Linkin Park songs, enjoyed drawing and is remembered as child who loved to laugh.

Jeremiah Lee Wright, center, 30, father of seven-year-old Jori Lirette, who was disabled and wheelchair-bound from cerebral palsy, and was found decapitated and dumped outside his home with his father sitting nearby, is transported into District Court to face murder charges in the boy’s death, in Thibodaux, La., Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011. Wright confessed to killing Jori Lirette within 30 minutes of being brought to the police station Sunday, Thibodaux Police Chief Scott Silverii said Monday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)