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Expert says 'unreliable' Wright was victim of mom

Prosecutors used Luke J. Wright's own statements to spell out the horrific crimes he's accused of committing against his mentally challenged half sister, Laura Cummings.

But on Monday a forensic psychologist told jurors that Wright couldn't be trusted to provide an accurate or truthful accounting of events that took place in the North Collins apartment where Cummings was found murdered on Jan. 21, 2010.

"He's totally unreliable," said Charles Ewing, an expert defense witness who interviewed Wright on three separate occasions. "I couldn't really put any stock in what he told me."

The renowned forensic psychologist and vice dean of the University at Buffalo Law School contended that Wright was "mentally retarded" and incompetent to stand trial, contrary to what Senior Erie County Court Judge Michael L. D'Amico ruled last year.

"It's clear to me from the answers he gave me that he does not understand the nature of the charges against him," said Ewing.

Ewing also delivered the bombshell revelation of the day in a trial that already has been full of them, testifying that Wright had sex with his own mother, Eva M. Cummings.

Eva Cummings, sentenced last November to more than 50 years in state prison for her role in brutalizing and ultimately suffocating her daughter, frequently engaged in sexual relations with a parade of boyfriends inside the Sherman Avenue apartment, in full view of Wright, Laura Cummings and other siblings, according to Ewing's testimony.

In his interviews with Ewing, Wright also reported being raped by an uncle on multiple occasions.

All of the sexual escapades had a profound effect in a home that Ewing described as "sickening."

"In my opinion, it sort of numbed him to the affects of sex abuse. It was the norm in that household -- sexual abuse, sexual conduct, sexual misconduct," said Ewing. "Luke came to believe that pretty much anything went when it came to sex."

Ewing examined more than 2,000 pages of documents going back as far as 1985 and interviewed Wright for 6 1/2 hours at the request of defense attorney John R. Nuchereno. Ewing also conducted interviews with Eva Cummings.

Wright's IQ was measured as low as 52 in school district and Supplemental Security Income records, putting him in the bottom 1 percent of cognitive ability nationwide.

Wright, 32, has difficulty reading, can't handle money, isn't able to drive and has trouble with quick decisions, according to Ewing. He also suffers from headaches and memory lapses -- possibly consequences of a traumatic brain injury.

"He doesn't understand that he's mentally retarded. He doesn't think there is anything significantly wrong with him. He thinks he does just fine," said Ewing.

Wright also showed no understanding of the charges against him, the psychologist said.

During their discussions he frequently rambled off topic, contradicting himself and impulsively commenting on subjects that Ewing didn't raise.

Senior Trial Counsel Thomas M. Finnerty of the Erie County District Attorney's Office aggressively cross-examined Ewing for 90 minutes, reminding jurors that other evidence corroborated the information Wright freely volunteered to Erie County sheriff's investigators on six separate occasions.

Wright admitted in police statements to tying his half sister to a chair, putting a hood over her head, throwing scalding water in her face and forcibly raping her -- all crimes that have other evidence connecting Wright to them, said Finnerty.

Finnerty described Wright as an "accurate reporter" who sought to unburden himself of the crimes by talking with authorities.

"You agree, there's nothing he's saying [in the police statements] which is not being supported by the physical evidence?" Finnerty asked the witness.

Ewing responded affirmatively.

In answering questions from both Nuchereno and Finnerty, Ewing said on some counts in the 10-count indictment, Wright could not be held responsible for the charges because he can't "appreciate the nature and consequences" of the acts and the wrongfulness of them.

Prosecutors are expected today to call their own expert witness, Dr. Gary Horwitz, who also interviewed Wright, to rebut Ewing's testimony.


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