Family of murder victim Mickey Wright takes case to civil court

The family of a murdered code enforcement officer is coping with this week's plea deal that means confessed killer Dale Mardis will serve only 12 years in prison.

But Mickey Wright's family may also face a tough battle when it comes to their civil suit.

The implications of the emotional outburst by the family of Mickey Wright go far beyond a criminal courtroom.

A plea agreement for Wright's accused killer, Dale Mardis, jeopardizes the outcome of civil cases brought against him by Wright's family.

"I can empathize very strongly with the Wright family because the punishment does in no way fit the crime," says Wright family attorney William Winchester.

Wright family attorney William Winchester admits a guaranteed 15 year sentence for Mardis is better than risking an acquittal had the case gone to trial.

"Once you walk into a courtroom and get the case in front of a jury there are no guarantees of anything," adds Winchester.

Wright was last seen in April of 2001 after writing a citation for a code violation at a car lot on Lamar Avenue.

Last week the owner of the property, Dale Mardis, pleaded no contest to the second degree murder of Wright even though testimony revealed Mardis dismembered Wrights body, then burned his remains.

Wright's family will now take their case to civil court. But they are in for a tougher fight than they anticipated.

"Mr. Mardis pled no contest. That means the guilty plea or plea agreement cannot be used against him in civil matters," says Winchester.

Winchester says Mardis' recent plea agreement won't make the civil suit impossible to win, but he will have to work much harder to bring a grieving family the justice they are seeking.

The Wright family is also suing Shelby County and several of its investigators for negligence.

Mardis' plea agreement cannot be brought in as evidence in those cases either.


to email Anna Marie Hartman.