The Michigan jury in the murder case of Susie ‘Susie Q’ Zhao only spent sightly more than an hour in the deliberation room debating the merits of the case against her accused killer. In the end, that jury came back unanimously with a guilty verdict in the brutal homicide, plus additional charges. The decision rendered by the jury puts an end to what was a heinous assault and murder of a well-respected poker player.
Killer Faces Life in Prison for His Crimes
The trial of Jeffrey Morris began on October 3, and, from the start, the viciousness of the crime was apparent. Zhao’s remains were found in July 2020, burned severely, and left in a roadside parking lot in a park in Michigan. Through testimony in the case, it was further demonstrated that Morris was a particular vicious criminal.
According to prosecutors, Morris planned out his assault of Zhao, including a sexual slavery fantasy in wooded areas such as where Zhao was found. Zhao was zip-tied – usually a device used by riot police to restrain protestors – and was set on fire while she was still alive. The medical examiner in the case determined this by the soot found in her lungs, indicating she was breathing as she burned to death.
The prosecutor in the case, John Skrzynski, used his closing arguments to detail out the viciousness of the crimes committed by Morris. “He’s a killer and a liar and a murderer, a liar and a pervert,” Skrzynski stated flatly during his closing arguments. He also detailed out that the crime could not have been committed by anyone else; cell phone records show the two near each other while Morris contemplated his crime.
Public Defender Attempts to Introduce Reasonable Doubt
Morris’ court appointed attorney, Michael McCarthy, attempted to punch holes in the prosecution’s case. He noted that there was no time of death stated and there were no witnesses who could attest to the situation. McCarthy also pointed out that there were DNA traces from another unidentified male and that the time frame – McCarthy alleged the crime took only seven minutes from assault to killing – was not possible, which is the basis for reasonable doubt.
In the end, the jury had none of McCarthy’s postulations. Morris was convicted of felony murder, which is a harsh charge in that there was a mitigating circumstance to make it a worse crime. In this case, it was the sexual assault of Zhao by Morris, which will ensure that the maximum sentence of life in prison will be on the table for the 62-year-old felon who had a rape conviction already on his record.
There will not be much time wasted before Morris is sentenced in Zhao’s killing. The court will reconvene on November 10, when Morris’ final fate will be determined. Because of the mitigating circumstances, it is highly unlikely the judge will show any mercy and he will spend the rest of his natural life in jail. All of it, however, does not bring Susie Zhao back to her friends and family.