Trial for Man Accused of Killing Poker Player Susie Zhao Begins Tomorrow
Warning: The following article contains graphic details involving murder and sexual assault.
After a series of legal and COVID-19 pandemic-related delays spanning more than a year, the trial of accused Susie Zhao murderer Jeffery Bernard Morris will finally get underway this week.
The trial, set to begin on Monday, Oct. 3, comes more than two years after the body of 33-year-old Zhao, a poker player and regular in the Los Angeles cash game scene, was discovered burned and partially mutilated in White Lake, Michigan in July 2020.
Morris, who was arrested in the weeks after police discovered Zhao's body, faces two felony murder charges in Michigan’s Oakland County Circuit Court, including one that prosecutors later tacked on as details emerged in the gruesome case.
A Trial At Last
On July 13, 2020, Zhao's body was discovered in a state recreation area in White Lake. An autopsy revealed that Zhao, who had recently moved back to Michigan from LA to live with family, had been burned alive and sexually assaulted.
Police arrested Morris in the following weeks, who prosecutors allege met Zhao at Sherwood Motel and bound her with zip ties and "lit (her) on fire until she died."
Morris, who has a violent criminal history dating back to the 1980s, was initially scheduled to stand trial in March 2021, but that date was pushed back to September 2021 in what would be the first of many delays in the case due to COVID-19 restrictions, a filing error and a change in Morris' counsel.
PokerNews reported in February that the trial would be getting underway on Sept. 26 with defense attorney Michael McCarthy acting as Morris' counsel.
Court records show the date was later pushed back to Oct. 3 after a one-week adjournment and now the trial is set to start tomorrow under presiding Judge Martha Anderson, meaning Zhao's family and the poker community may finally get long-awaited answers and justice for the horrific murder.
Pretrial Proceedings Underway
There have been a handful of pretrial proceedings in the month leading up to the trial, including jury selection and requests by local TV stations to cover the trial.
Additionally, prosecutors filed a motion to introduce "evidence of all (Morris') internet searches and web histories" between June 20, 2020 and July 31, 2020. Judge Anderson granted the motion but with the caveat that prosecutors may not introduce as evidence any photographs or videos that result from those web searches.
With such proceedings wrapping up, all is set for the trial to get underway on Oct. 3. The trial will be streamed and accessible through Michigan's Virtual Courtroom Directory.
Justice for "Susie Q"
Zhao immigrated to the US from China as a child and grew up in Michigan before studying psychology and business at Northwestern University.
Zhao, nicknamed "Susie Q," later moved to LA and became a regular player and commentator on the Live at the Bike stream at the Bicycle Casino. She also made a name for herself with a series of deep runs in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, including a 90th-place finish in the 2012 Main Event for $73,805.
"Susie Q" was a beloved member of the poker community who had lasting friendships with players including Brandon Shack-Harris, Allen Kessler, Xuan Liu, Ronnie Bardah and Clayton Fletcher, who played with Zhao in the 2015 Main Event and described her as "one of the bubbliest and most vivacious opponents I’ve ever had."
@RonnieBardah What the fuckkkkkk!?!?! Had NFI until I saw this. Tons of great experiences playing and talking with… https://t.co/Vt540M3d9g— 🎈Brandon Shack-Harris (@Oscillator_WSOP)
PokerNews will be covering the Jeffrey Morris trial in the Susie Zhao murder case as it gets underway next week.