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NC Appeals Court hears Jason Young's bid for new trial

Posted December 12, 2013

— The conviction of a Raleigh man found guilty in the murder of his pregnant wife seven years ago went before the North Carolina Court of Appeals on Thursday with his attorney trying to convince a three-judge panel that he received an unfair trial.

Jason Young, 39, was convicted March 5, 2012, of first-degree murder in the beating death of Michelle Young, who was found in a pool of blood by the side of her bed on Nov. 3, 2006.

The appeal focuses on several decisions Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens made during the seven-week trial, including whether he should have allowed testimony and judgment about a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Michelle Young’s family and a custody dispute regarding the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Cassidy.

In the wrongful death lawsuit, Stephens declared Young responsible for his wife's death after Young failed to respond to the civil claim – a default judgment that does not declare innocence or guilt.

Barbara Blackman, Young's appellate attorney, argued that the state turned to the civil cases, which she contended were inadmissible evidence, in an effort to win a conviction after Young's original trial in 2011 ended in a mistrial.

"If this type of evidence is admitted – for what will apparently be the first time in the country in a homicide prosecution – I think it's going to open the door to the pursuit of civil litigation before indictment in order to manufacture evidence to use at a criminal trial," Blackman said.

But North Carolina Assistant Attorney General Dan O'Brien argued the civil litigation was used only to discredit Young's testimony from his first trial, which was the first time since his wife's death that he offered an alibi.

The state's aim, O'Brien said, was to show that if Jason Young had no involvement in Michelle Young’s death, he had more to gain – including custody of Cassidy – than to lose by giving depositions in the civil cases.

"He chose to be silent when he had all his assets on the line – $4.2 million in life insurance benefits and custody of his daughter," O'Brien said. "The inference is that he waited until the criminal case came around, and he got all the evidence that the state had against him. He knew exactly what he could say to try to fit his testimony into the state's evidence."

But Blackman said the civil matters, as well as Stephens' judgment, likely influenced jurors.

"Clearly, the thrust of all that the state was doing here was to establish to the jury that the allegation in the civil complaint was more likely true than not and that the admission by default was more likely true than not," she said.

"It seems fundamentally unfair for the jury to be advised that a judgment has been entered declaring him the killer," she added. "We've got a verdict here we simply cannot have confidence in."

Blackman also argued that jurors should not have been permitted to hear testimony from a day care worker who said she watched Cassidy, six days after the crime, re-enact her mother’s attack using dolls.

Blackman said Stephens did not properly instruct jurors on how they could use the testimony in their deliberations. But Assistant Attorney General Amy Irene said the judge properly instructed jurors that the evidence could only be used to determine whether Cassidy witnessed part of her mother's assault – not as a means of identifying the killer.

Michelle Young, 29, who was five months’ pregnant, suffered at least 30 blows, mostly to her head, according to a medical examiner’s testimony,

Jason Young was arrested three years after the crime and has maintained he was away on business in Virginia at the time and that his wife’s killer has never been caught.

Defense attorneys argued there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime and that evidence at the home suggested someone other than Jason Young could have killed Michelle Young.

But 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.

Michelle Young’s sister, Meredith Fisher, discovered her sister's body more than nine hours later, as well as Cassidy, unharmed, hiding beneath the covers of her parents' bed.

"We just feel confident in the verdict that has been entered," she said after Thursday morning's hearing. "We feel confident in the justice system and (Wake County assistant district attorneys) Howard Cummings and Becky Holt and Judge Stephens' rulings and that the jury reached the right verdict."

Several of Jason Young's family members, who were also present Thursday, declined to comment, but Blackman did afterward.

"I think the court indicated that it's giving serious consideration to the issues raised," she said. "Obviously, it's going to be several months before we receive an opinion from the court."

Cummings said he's optimistic about the appellate ruling.

"I believe that the case against Jason Young was tried free from error, and our office and the Attorney General's office is confident that the Court of Appeals will affirm his conviction," he said.

93 Comments

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  • monami Dec 19, 3:52 p.m.

    "Unfortunately, in Wake County the government is so concerned about the areas reputation as a safe place to live that they quickly rap up murders and automatically assume the husband did it...They disregard all evidence that points toward someone other than the husband because it detracts from the areas reputation as a safe place to live."

    I have to laugh. The Young case was anything except "quickly wrapped up"! And there is no other evidence that points to anyone other than the husbands. On the contrary, everything points to Young. Feel free to acquaint yourself with the facts and evidence.

    Last point: this has nothing to do with "feminism."

  • ConservativeVoter Dec 16, 4:38 p.m.

    In North Carolina amongst feminists that if something bad happens to the wife, the husband must be guilty.

    The feminists don't believe in random murders and serial killers.

    Unfortunately, law enforcement and the DA's office in Wake County believes the same feminist propaganda.

    In the United States there are hundreds of serial killers killing people every day.

    Seeing that we have several questionable deaths of women in southern wake county including Michelle Young, The cooper lady, and the pregnant newspaper delivery people, we need to figure out what's happening.

    Unfortunately, in Wake County the government is so concerned about the areas reputation as a safe place to live that they quickly rap up murders and automatically assume the husband did it.

    They disregard all evidence that points toward someone other than the husband because it detracts from the areas reputation as a safe place to live.

    If random murders started happening, the area would start looking like Detroit.

  • shortcake53 Dec 13, 6:52 p.m.

    And after his fair trial, which he had and was convicted by his peers, he should shut up and take his punishment.

  • dollibug Dec 13, 4:36 p.m.

    This man should be allowed to have a FAIR TRIAL....it is sad when innocent people can be indicted, tried and convicted without ANY EVIDENCE being presented that would find the accused GUILTY. It is quite interesting that because the killer did NOT kill the young child most people think it had to be the father. The way he looks or acts does NOT automatically make him a killer.

  • lissad821 Dec 13, 4:28 p.m.

    He deserves a new trial since I feel he did not take his wife life. The murderer is still walking around. May the whole truth come out this time. And, please don't involve the children in this issue.
    678devilish

    You know this Jason Young we are discussing, not Brad Cooper right? JY only had one child that made it our of the womb. A daughter, who is being raised by Michelle's family. And you feel he is innocent? We don't retry people based on feelings. Just the facts!

  • shortcake53 Dec 13, 4:23 p.m.

    Just because you scream on here in capital letters does not make your statment true.

  • shortcake53 Dec 13, 4:15 p.m.

    Show me your proof of his innocence since you like screaming it on here so much, THEN maybe I will reconsider. Whats that??? No proof, thats what I thought............

  • 678devilish Dec 13, 3:56 p.m.

    Michelle didnt get a second chance and neither should he.

    shortcake53

    Well he is going to get it. He did not KILL HIS WIFE. You know that and the world now know that. HE IS INNOCENT!

  • shortcake53 Dec 13, 3:46 p.m.

    Leave him jail where he belongs. Michelle didnt get a second chance and neither should he.

  • 678devilish Dec 13, 3:28 p.m.

    NOT GUILTY THEN, NOW, OR EVER!!!!!

    kat4eagles

    I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU. HE IS INNOCENT AND HAVE ALWAYS BEEN. SO MANY PEOPLE THAT KNOWS THIS MAN IS REALLY BLIND TO THAT FACT. HE DID NOT KILL HIS WIFE.

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