Death penalty no longer an option in UK student's slaying

Raymond Wright
Raymond Wright

After one of the two men accused of killing a University of Kentucky student entered a surprise guilty plea, the death penalty no longer was a sentencing option for the other.

Raymond Larry Wright, 29, pleaded guilty Thursday morning to one count of murder and two counts of complicity to commit robbery. Prosecutors recommended a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

Wright's plea came on the fourth day of jury selection in the trial of both men.

Wright's co-defendant, Adrian Lamont Benton, 31, has not entered a plea. If convicted, he no longer can be sentenced to death because of Wright's plea "and other factors known to the judge," public defender Casey Holland, an attorney for Benton, said.

Holland declined to go into more detail.

"We are ethically prohibited from commenting on any contested facts," he said.

Wright and Benton faced murder and other charges in the 2006 death of John Graves Mattingly III, 23.

Police have said that the two men burst into a home on Wilson Street that Mattingly shared with other students and demanded cash from the occupants at gunpoint.

After the sounds of squealing tires and gunfire startled neighbors, Mattingly was found shot in the head on nearby Elm Tree Lane. Friends said he was chasing the getaway car while on the phone with police, trying to get the license plate number.

Mattingly, the son of Marion County Judge-Executive John Mattingly Jr., died weeks later at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital from the gunshot wound.

It's unclear how Wright's guilty plea will affect the length of the trial, which was expected to last until June 2.

Jury selection tends to take longer for death penalty cases. Potential jurors have been questioned individually about whether they were willing to consider the death penalty as an option.

Holland said the jury is expected to be seated Thursday afternoon, with opening statements expected Monday.

Wright is scheduled to be sentenced June 17 by Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark.

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