Kathy Taft

New trial sought in murder of State Board of Ed member

Posted April 30

— Two years after he received a life sentence for the rape and beating death of North Carolina state school board member, a Raleigh man has appealed his conviction and is seeking a new trial.

Jason Williford was convicted of the March 6, 2010, attack on Kathy Taft, who died three days after she was beaten in her sleep at the Raleigh home of a friend.

Williford argues in his appeal that police violated his rights by using a discarded cigarette butt to test for DNA to link him to the crime. He had already declined investigators' request for a DNA sample and maintains that they went on his property without a warrant to pick up the cigarette butt.

Because defense attorneys couldn't keep the DNA evidence out of the trial, they argued that a variety of mental disorders, including alcohol dependency, depression and impulse control disorder, along with a night of drinking and prescription drug abuse factored into Williford’s behavior on the night of the attack.

Prosecutors never denied Williford suffered from mental disorders but said his actions were calculated.

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  • pause to consider May 2, 3:08 p.m.

    Very good comments JURYDOC and explains why the general public is often mystified by our 'justice' system. To insiders, it is all about process and procedures. Trial lawyers and court officials hide behind 'precedents' and other established common operating procedures to avoid getting closer to the truth (which only the defendants and victims really know). We get lowest common denominator justice. It just bugs me that a legal precedent is set for one case then is almost blindly applied to other cases that do not merit the same consideration. It's the lawyer club and the victims and general public don't like it.

  • AConservativePerson May 1, 1:19 p.m.

    It was trash. People have a right to pick up trash and the police did. Then they used it to nail him for the crime.

  • jurydoc May 1, 12:20 p.m.

    People mistakenly believe that justice is about "finding the truth of the matter." The problem is that frequently in the justice system, the "truth of the matter" is unknown and unknowable. Therefore, the justice system is predicated on legal procedure and the premise is "if procedure is followed, then 'justice' is done." While this is unsatisfying to those who cling to a view of the system as a truth-finding mechanism, it helps significantly to explain why issues of this sort are critical to 'justice' within such a system. If procedure was not followed, then 'justice' was not done. If truth-finding was truly the desired outcome of the justice system, then all relevant evidence would be considered no matter how collected. But this (and many other procedural rules) are in place to protect the process because it is following the process that assures 'justice.' This if frequently an emotionally unsatisfying circumstance for observers, but a foundational assumption for insiders.

  • less_govt_is_better_govt May 1, 10:56 a.m.

    Williford is guilty I feel and this appeal was expected.

    The focus should be on the shady ADA who prosecuted this case. How much misconduct has she turned a blind eye to prosecute at any cost in her court rooms?

    Williford knew he was a suspect and simply used his rights until he himself dropped the ball and the police picked it up from there.

  • In Decisive May 1, 10:47 a.m.

    With the way the appellate judges are going lately, they'll probably overturn this conviction, as nonsensical as it may be.

  • jcthai May 1, 9:57 a.m.

    Depends on where they found it and if any person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. "entered his property" doesn't tell us anything. Something out in plain view in a front yard is on your property, but you have no expectation of privacy. Something in a tool shed in your fenced in back yard is not visible and you do have an expectation of privacy, Did he live in an apartment? If so, did they enter it? Did they find the cigarettebutt on a balcony outside?

  • pause to consider May 1, 9:45 a.m.

    Other than an ambitious lawyer looking for a gap in the armor of our justice system, this tatic will do nothing but further weaken our justice system. Williford didn't think of this angle on his own, some lawyer if tying to make his stripes. I sure hope the NC Apellate court does not allow this request for new trial bases on this argument.

  • greg69innc May 1, 9:24 a.m.

    Mr. Williford violated Mrs. Taft's rights when he did what he did. I honestly could care less about his rights and as far as our society goes he gave those up on March 6 2010

  • scubagirl2 May 1, 9:16 a.m.

    If I'm not mistaken, and I might be, I don't think a search warrant is needed if something is discarded in a public place-which his cigarette butt was-he's just wasting time and money.

  • Glock07 May 1, 9:07 a.m.

    Why don't we just give everyone 2 or 3 trials right in the beginning. This is ridiculous.

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