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Jurors Find Ex-Soldier Guilty in Racially-Motivated Murders

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Malcolm Wright
WILMINGTON (AP) — After less than a full day ofdeliberations,jurors Friday found former Fort Bragg soldier Malcolm Wright guiltyof two counts of first-degree murder.

Wright, of Louisville, Ky., was accused along with a fellowsoldier of killing two black people in Fayetteville in whatprosecutors said was a racially-motivated crime.

Wright showed little emotion as the verdict was read.

Superior Court Judge Coy Brewer set a sentencing hearing forWright to begin at 9 a.m. Monday.

Following the verdict, Brewer denied a motion to rule out thedeath penalty for Wright.

Wright, whose spider web tattoo and involvement in a neo-Naziskinhead group was central to the case, could face the deathpenalty even though co-defendant and trigger man James Burmeisterwas sentenced to life in prison following his conviction in March.

Prosecutors had claimed Wright and Burmeister were members of aneo-Nazi group at Fort Bragg and that Burmeister set out to killsomeone to earn a spider web tattoo like the one on Wright's elbow.In skinhead culture, the tattoo signifies that the wearer haskilled or severely injured a black or homosexual.

Police said the two walked up to Michael James, 36, and JackieBurden, 27, on a rainy night in December 1995 and shot them in theback of the head.

Another former soldier, Randy Meadows Jr., 22, of Mulkeytown,Ill., made a plea arrangement with the state and testified againstboth Burmeister and Wright.

The killings set off a wave of protests by civil rightsadvocates and resulted in an Army-wide investigation of extremismin the ranks. The investigation concluded there were few extremistsin the military, but Army officials admitted they should have takenmore steps to root out skinheads and other white supremacists.

Lawyers for Wright had argued that he was only guilty of beingaracist. They said he had no idea that Burmeister planned to killJames and Burden until he pulled the trigger.

Earlier Friday, jurors asked to review a letter Wrightapparently wrote to a white supremacists group.

The letter, which prosecutors say was found in Wright's FortBragg barracks room, is addressed to, ``My White Racial Comrades.''

Based on the information in the letter, Wright was writing theletter to members of the Church of the Creator, a violent whitesupremacist group which calls for its followers to ready for aracial holy war.

In addition to requesting the letter, jurors also asked to seeaphoto of Wright which shows his spider web tattoo and another whichshows Wright and other members of his neo-Nazi group giving a Nazisalute.

Juror also reviewed Meadows' statement to police and the pleaagreement he reached with prosecutors.

The jury began deliberating late Thursday afternoon. As jurorsbroke for lunch Friday, the strain of wading through the facts ofthe case and deciding whether Wright is guilty of first-degreemurder or a lesser charge was showing of their faces. Most jurorswore stern expressions and smiled little.

The trial was moved to Wilmington because of pretrialpublicity.The prosecution rested its case Wednesday. Defense lawyers didn'tcall any witnesses.

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