Tremaine Wilbourn trial: Witnesses testify about difficult childhood during sentencing

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County jury that convicted Tremaine Wilbourn in the death of Memphis Police Officer Sean Bolton over the weekend will return for the last phase of sentencing at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The jury heard from several witnesses Monday as the trial entered the sentencing phase, including the woman who raised him for much of his life.

The first witness to take the stand out of view of the jury was Dr. Turner, who suggested Wilbourn may have been suffering from PTSD and race-related stress and trauma the night Officer Bolton was shot and killed.

He stated Wilbourn's childhood trauma could have impacted how he interacted with the officer.

However, Judge Coffee dismissed his testimony due to the inaccurate belief on the psychologist's part that the shooting took place after Officer Bolton reached for his own gun. Coffee also pointed out that race-related stress/trauma isn't recognized by the psychology community.

The jury did not hear his testimony.

Part One: Dr. Turner

After a short recess, Wilbourn returned to court saying he wanted to speak with Judge Coffee. When called upon, he said he feels like has not received a fair trial, and there has been miscommunications between himself and his defense team.

He also told the judge he would like to forgo the entire sentencing hearing process. The judge reminded him that it would be in his best interest to allow his lawyers to continue if he wished to try to convince a jury to spare his life.

After a short delay, he decided to allow the process to continue.

Part Two

The next character witness to take the stand was Pastor Ralph White. He said Wilbourn grew up right across the street from his church, Bloomfield Baptist.

"Once he grew up he grew away though. We lost connection, I never lost the concern," he said.

Part Three: Pastor Ralph White

Part Four: Expert testifies on Wilbourn's troubled childhood

According to expert testimony, Wilbourn had a difficult childhood with his mother, a transient prostitute and drug addict who eventually abandoned Wilbourn and her other children to be raised by someone else. She said Wilbourn suffered from depression and PTSD stemming from this.

Part Five: Sandra Richardson

Sandra Richardson raised Wilbourn for much of his life, along with his brothers and sisters. She said she did so because she wanted to keep the family together.

"Just give him to me. I fell in love with that baby," she said.

Wilbourn buried his face in his hands while family told jurors he was remorseful about what happened to MPD Officer Sean Bolton. And that he wasn't disrespectful towards them.

The state brought up that Wilbourn admitted to having issues with authority and is even reported as saying he can't stand them.

Wilbourn's sister also took the stand. She told the courtroom her brother was enrolled in school and working at the time of his arrest.

Background Information

Wilbourn was found guilty on all counts on Sunday, which included first-degree murder, carjacking, possession of a firearm and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

Following the verdict announcement, the state offered a deal to Wilbourn of life without parole. Wilbourn agreed to the deal, but just before he was able to sign it, Officer Bolton's family rejected it.

The jury will now have to decide whether Wilbourn will be sentenced to death or life in prison.


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