IMAGE: DAPHNE WRIGHT
Elisha Page  /  AP
Daphne Wright is escorted to the courthouse in Sioux Falls, S.D., on April 3 for the second day of her trial.
updated 4/18/2007 9:42:18 PM ET 2007-04-19T01:42:18

A deaf woman convicted of kidnapping an acquaintance and hacking up her body with a chain saw was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison..

In closing arguments earlier in the day, prosecutor Dave Nelson said Daphne Wright deserved to die by lethal injection because the mutilation was the act of a depraved mind.

Wright's public defender, Jeff Larson, argued that she burned and cut the body as an afterthought and that the slaying was an isolated act motivated by jealousy.

"Do you really think the body was dismembered for some perverse pleasure," Larson asked the jury, "or because she couldn't figure out how to get a 200-pound body out of the basement?"

The jury of 11 woman and one man decide that the state had proved depravity of mind beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for consideration of the death penalty. But jurors instead opted for life in prison without parole.

The same jury convicted Wright, 43, of Sioux Falls, last week of kidnapping and murdering Darlene VanderGiesen, 42, another deaf woman from Sioux Falls.

Prosecutors said that in a jealous rage Wright kidnapped VanderGiesen, killed her, cut apart her body with a chain saw and burned it. She was jealous of a friendship VanderGiesen had with Wright's former female lover, authorities said.

Nelson told jurors their verdict will be just if they treat both women equally. VanderGiesen was white and heterosexual. Wright is black and homosexual.

"I don't believe that your verdict would be any different based upon who the victim is and the defendant is. Then regardless of what your decision is, regardless of whether your decision is life or death, your decision will be just and your decision will be right," he said.

Wright's mother, several other supporters and at least one juror cried as Larson ended his closing arguments.

Wright would have been the first woman on South Dakota's death row and likely the first deaf woman on death row in the nation had she been sentenced to die.

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