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Prosecutor: 'Buck stopped' with Matthews couple

Posted July 30, 2015

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— The jury began deliberation Thursday afternoon to decide whether Dr. Charles and Kimberly Matthews will be charged with supplying alcohol to minors at a June 2014 wedding.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller said in his closing arguments on Thursday that the case against the Matthewses goes beyond Jonathan "JT" Taylor, 18, who lost his life in a drunk driving crash after leaving their home.

Waller said the case is ultimately about whether or not adults who serve alcohol in their home with teenagers present are responsible for keeping them safe.

"The buck stopped with them. It was their house, it was their wedding, it was their alcohol," said Waller. "They didn't do anything to prevent these kids from drinking."

Testimony from witnesses and photographs showed that the teens drank in plain view of adults, including the Matthewses, who declined to testify.

Witnesses testified Taylor was seen speaking to Charles Matthews late in the party.

"You can't tell me he can't see when he's sitting five feet away from them, that he doesn't know what's going on," said Waller. "This is extreme intoxication, this is someone dying, this is two ladies ending up in a basement passed out and sick."

In his closing argument, defense attorney Hart Miles pointed out that it is legal to serve alcohol in a home and that there was no indication that the couple told bartenders at the event to serve alcohol to minors. In addition, Hart said it was the responsibility of the bartenders to check identification before serving alcohol.

He also noted that, in many respects, 18-year-olds are considered young adults and questioned whether parents should be held responsible for their decisions.

He said in looking through 4,000 photos from the event, police did not find a picture that showed the couple alongside teenagers with wine.

"Did you hear the whole story or was it cherry picked to create a narrative that just doesn't hold water?" Miles asked. "Is it criminal accountability for failing to save someone from their own adult choices?

"I submit to you they are not criminals, and they should not be held criminally accountable for what happened," he said.

Before closing arguments began, Miles made another motion to dismiss the case against the couple, stating that his clients were effectively charged with eight crimes instead of four. He said during the January indictment, the grand jury did not specify if the couple was being indicted on charges of aiding or charges of abetting or both. Miles also submitted a separate motion for dismissal based on insufficient evidence. Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith denied both motions.

On Thursday morning, jurors heard testimony from Sgt. Sean Hoolan, who explained that he spoke to Brian Johnson, a yoga instructor at the wedding who was likely the last person to see Taylor alive. According to Hoolan, Taylor spoke to Johnson in the library. In addition to appearing inebriated, Taylor also told Johnson that he was high on marijuana. No evidence of the drug was found during the investigation, but neither did authorities screen Taylor's body for controlled substances after his death, Hoolan said.

Hoolan explained that the decision to charge Charles and Kimberly Matthews came after photos of the event were shown to him by the bride and groom, Sarah and Thad Lawrence. Hoolan explained that police could not prove that any of the people from the catering service served alcohol to the minors, and none of the bartenders were charged. James Wilson, the ABC store clerk who sold Jack Daniels to the Matthewses son, Thomas, was cited but not arrested.

Thomas Matthews was charged along with his parents, but he pleaded guilty before their trial began. He will be sentenced after the trial of his parents.

The Matthewses are also facing a civil lawsuit filed against them by Jonathan Taylor's family.

32 Comments

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  • J.w. Thompson Jul 31, 2015
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    I wondered about this case.Now I get it when I saw the last line. Some shyster has told the family we can get rich off this doctor!!

  • Angie Cox Jul 31, 2015
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    If the parents are to be charged so should the yoga instructor and school teacher. this happens every single day and the only reason why this went as far as it has is because someone died and the person that died Dad happens to be law enforcement. put a stop to it before someone dies people.

  • Paul Jones Jul 31, 2015
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    Yeah. It's also insane considering that there is no evidence that the boy drank any alcohol purchased by this couple. It's already been established that the boy got drunk drinking Jack Daniels and some witnesses said he was stoned. Between the drugs and alcohol not provided at the party, I don't see how that civil suit has any legs.

  • Rob Creekmore Jul 31, 2015
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    The drinking age should be 18 in the first place. The military recruitment age is 18. So, you may pick up a gun and fight overseas but you may not pick up a drink stateside?

  • Lewis Smeltzer Jul 30, 2015
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    So the parents of the dead man have a filed a civil suit, Nice - nothing like cashing out over the dead body of your child. Geez.

  • Dan Martin Jul 30, 2015
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    The young adults could have raided the liquor cabinet or snatched a bottle from a distracted bartender and the homeowner didn't know. I did this when I was 18 and we went to the bartenders just to get mixers. I would never convict the homeowner in this case.

  • Crystal Francese Jul 30, 2015
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    I'm glad to see the majority of comments are from sane people who realize this is a witch hunt to find a scapegoat for the young man's death.

    The young man chose to drink underage as well as commit a felony DUI that resulted in his death. All around tragedy but it shouldn't be pinned on only this couple.

  • Mike Wells Jul 30, 2015
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    It breaks my heart for this young man and his parents. Still full of life and ended so abruptly. I am scared to be in Wake County. If the DA is going after these parents, think about the next time you have a party in your home serving alcohol. You are responsible for EVERYONE no matter what age they may be and if they did not drink at your home.

  • Dona Hill Jul 30, 2015
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    The Mother said on the stand, "Call me if you need a ride." To me that says it all. She knew there was a possibility that her son would be drinking." She did not say. It is against the law for you to drink alcohol.

  • Paul Jones Jul 30, 2015
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    Basically, what you're saying is that a home owner has to be responsible for the actions of OTHER adults. That's just plain wrong. What kind of stupid thinking is that? I'm pretty sure our founding fathers did not intend this to be the kinds of laws we inflict on citizens.

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