A jury in Michigan took less than one hour to find Jeffrey Bernard Morris guilty of the brutal murder of poker pro Suzie Zhao, returning guilty verdicts on both counts of premeditated murder and felony murder…
Poker journalist Jennifer Newell has been among those following the harrowing court case this week, which saw 63-year-old Morris on trial for killing Susie back in July 2020.
The trial, which had only seen two days of witness testimony, all 17 witnesses brought by the prosecution, reached closing arguments Friday in a Michigan court.
The prosecution reinforced their claim that Morris was responsible for the heinous crimes against 33-year-old Susie, who was bound, sexually assaulted, and then set alight while still alive, and are seeking life sentences without parole for Morris on charges of premeditated murder and felony murder.
The accused’s defence lawyer, Michael McCarthy, claimed in his closing argument that there was “reasonable doubt” as to his client’s guilt.
The Oakland County District Court had heard evidence across two days from a selection of prosecution witnesses, with forensic scientists, automotive experts, and various others testifying to Morris’s connection to the crimes.
The State of Michigan’s chief prosecution litigator, John Skrzynski, built his closing argument around the specific details presented to the court:
- Morris’s mobile phone records showing he was present with Susie before her death and where her body was found;
- his DNA was found on and inside her body;
- his internet searches matched the sexual assaults carried out on Susie’s body;
- his capture on CCTV both buying and stealing items used in the commission of Susie’s death.
These factors, Skrzynski argued, were more than enough to find Morris guilty of the charges levied against him.
The defence attorney for Morris, Michael McCarthy, argued in turn that there were enough questions unanswered in the investigation and evidence to show reasonable doubt of Morris guilt.
- That Morris was questioned in a police car rather than taken to the station when arrested;
- A second, much smaller DNA sample was found on Susie not belonging to Morris;
- That Morris told the police the truth about so many things that he should be considered honest in other matters.
Poker journalist, Jennifer Newell, kept Twitter updated throughout what was a difficult trial to follow, sharing the basics of the final day…
Judge Martha D. Anderson reminded the jury of 12 and substitutes what was expected of them, and to only take into account what they had heard and seen in the courtroom this week.
That included testimony related to Morris’s interest in extreme and violent sexual practices, Susie being burned alive in a forest parking lot after suffering a horrific sexual assault, and numerous witnesses who placed Jeffrey Bernard Morris and Susie Zhao together on the evening and night of her cruel death.
The jury retired to consider its verdict, but returned less than an hour later to deliver a guilty verdict against Morris on both counts, premeditated murder and felony murder.
Susie Zhao was a popular cash game pro who played mostly in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, with appearances on the YouTube show “Live at the Bike”, streamed from the Bicycle Casino.
She had also picked up more than $220,000 in live tournament cashes, including a 90th spot, $73k cash at the 2015 WSOP.
After the verdict was delivered, Newell wrote on Twitter:
“Nothing will bring Susie Zhao back to life. Nothing will erase the horror she experienced or that which her family and friends will live with forever. But perhaps the swift guilty verdict will provide a little sense of justice.”
Morris will be sentenced on November 10th and is expected to receive a life sentence without parole for each of the two guilty verdicts.
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