Jason Young appeals conviction in wife's 2006 beating death
Posted July 30, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — An appellate attorney for a Raleigh man serving life in prison for beating to death his pregnant wife says a Wake County Superior Court judge should not have allowed testimony at his trial last year about the behavior of the couple's 2-year-old daughter in the days after the murder.
Employees of the day care that Cassidy Young attended testified during the seven-week murder trial of Jason Young that, six days after the crime, she appeared to re-enact her mother's attack with two dolls that resembled her parents.
Michelle Young, 29, was five months' pregnant with the couple's second child when she was found Nov. 3, 2006, face down in a pool of blood in the master bedroom of the Youngs' Raleigh home.
Jason Young, 39, was found guilty of first-degree murder on March 5, 2012 – nearly a year after he testified in his first murder trial, which ended with a deadlocked jury that forced Judge Donald Stephens to declare a mistrial.
The day care workers' testimony was not introduced in Jason Young's first trial, and appellate attorney Barbara Blackman argues in a 54-page appellate brief that Stephens should not have allowed it in the second.
Among other issues in the appeal, Blackman also argues that Stephens' decision to allow testimony about a $15.5 million wrongful death lawsuit and about a custody dispute over Cassidy Young violated Jason Young's right to a fair trial.
The brief also argues that Stephens should not have instructed the jury that it could consider Jason Young's "failure to talk to friends and family as substantive evidence of guilt."
"Instructing the jury that it could infer guilt from Mr. Young's silence was error so fundamental that the jury probably would have returned a different verdict had it not been permitted to do so," Blackman writes.
The next step in the appeals process is for the state to respond with its own brief before the North Carolina Court of Appeals decides whether it will hear arguments on the case.
"We knew it was coming. I expected nothing less. It's a first-degree murder case with a life sentence," Michelle Young's sister, Meredith Fisher, said Tuesday afternoon. "I have faith in Judge Stephens. I think every opinion he ruled on was appropriate."
Jason Young's defense attorneys, Mike Klinkosum and Bryan Collins, had no comment about the appeal Tuesday, but prosecutor Becky Holt said she, too, is sure about the case and its outcome.
"I don't think there's any surprises in what I've seen with regard to the appeal," she said. "There's certain issues that they've picked out that they want the Court of Appeals to review, and we feel very confident that Judge Stephens made the right rulings and that (the conviction) will be upheld."
Jason Young, who is incarcerated at Alexander Correctional Institution in Alexander County, has maintained he was away on business in Virginia when Michelle Young was killed and that he had no involvement in her death.
The state argued that the couple's marriage was troubled and that Jason Young, pressured by the responsibilities of marriage and family, wanted out of the relationship.
The night before his wife's death, prosecutors said, he checked into a hotel just over the Virginia border and then drove back to his home and committed the crime before returning to Virginia to continue on with his trip.
Fisher discovered her sister's body more than nine hours later, as well as Cassidy, unharmed, hiding under the cover of her parents' bed.