The California Supreme Court Thursday upheld a Long Beach man’s conviction and death sentence for murdering a man shortly after a drug deal at a home in Pomona.
William Lee Wright, now 52, was convicted in 2002 of murdering Philip Curtis and trying to kill two other men on March 21, 2000 at the Pomona house, to which he returned about an hour after buying $50 of rock cocaine, according to the ruling by the state’s highest court.
Wright was also found guilty of trying to kill two other men in a Long Beach apartment on Feb. 17, 2020, after going there in an unsuccessful bid to buy marijuana. One of the victims was stabbed, and the other — who was robbed of $70 — survived being shot twice in the back of the head.
Jurors found true the special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a robbery and murder during the commission of a burglary, with the panel subsequently recommending that the ex-con be sentenced to death for his crimes.
Wright was formally sentenced in 2002.
He was arrested in an Ontario apartment in March 2000 for an unrelated crime, with police discovering a .32-caliber revolver under the couch cushions, according to the opinion written by Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye.
A senior criminalist with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department concluded that the .32-caliber bullet recovered from the murder victim’s body and a bullet fragment recovered from the crime scene in Long Beach were fired by that weapon, according to the opinion.
With the other six Supreme Court justices concurring, Cantil-Sakauye noted that “the evidence supporting the jury’s guilt determination was strong.”
“Several eyewitnesses in the present case placed defendant at both the Long Beach scene and the Pomona scene” and the jury “heard ballistics evidence linking defendant to the murder which bolstered the direct evidence presented,” according to the ruling.