Kathy Taft

Did Taft's accused killer realize consequences of attack?

Posted May 25, 2012
Updated May 26, 2012

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— Serious depression along with alcohol and drug abuse significantly impaired Jason Williford's ability to think through the consequences of his actions on the morning he attacked state school board member Kathy Taft, a forensic psychologist testified Friday in Williford's capital murder trial.

Williford trial testimony (Day 8, pt 2) Jason Williford trial (Day 8)

James Hilkey said the 32-year-old Williford had relapsed from a period of sobriety and abstinence from sexual deviations, had recently lost his job and that his hopes of beating his mental struggles had been dashed.

"He had reverted back to behaviors that he had tried to control, and he again had failed," Hilkey said. "He had started to drink again. The sexual activities had increased. He had lost his job."

At issue in Williford's trial is not whether he attacked Taft but whether he was capable of forming the necessary mental intent to warrant a first-degree murder conviction.

Prosecutors say Taft, 62, was asleep in the Raleigh home of her longtime companion on March 6, 2010, when Williford intentionally broke into the house, beat her in the head with a blunt object and raped her. She died three days later.

Defense attorneys claim he was acting under a diminished mental capacity stemming from a variety of mental disorders, including alcoholism, impulse control disorder and sexual addiction.

According to the defense, Williford had been snorting Ritalin and drinking and was looking for an empty house to break into for an adrenaline rush.

He had been walking around the neighborhood, checking mailboxes, when he came upon 2710 Cartier Drive – where Taft was staying – and discovered a large amount of mail in the box.

Thinking the house was empty, his attorneys say, he used a piece of a security sign to jimmy the door lock. When he got inside, he realized someone was at the home and started to leave.

But on his way out, he noticed Taft asleep in her room. She awoke, startled, and Williford hit her in the head three times with a rock he had been carrying and raped her, the defense says.

Hilkey testified that, in his opinion, Williford was impaired in his ability to weigh the consequences of his actions.

"I do not believe that Mr. Williford had the ability to deliberate or consider the consequences of his behavior," Hilkey said. "I do think there was an element of planning, and I do think that he could plan to some extent."

On cross-examination by prosecutor David Saacks, Hilkey said he believed the breaking-and-entering was "thrill-based," based on Williford's history of similar crimes.

When asked about the assault and rape, "I don't have an opinion about that," Hilkey said.

Hilkey also testified that Williford has expressed remorse for what happened and for the pain inflicted upon both Taft's family and his.

During an interview last summer, Hilkey said, Williford told him that, after the attack, he went home less than two blocks away and, horrified by what he had done, wept on his kitchen floor before going to bed.

"People do not choose to be an addict. It's not something that's pleasant. It's an insidious, destructive set of behaviors that is marked by immediate pleasure followed by intense pain and, oftentimes, guilt and shame," Hilkey said.

To that, Saacks asked if that meant every alcoholic who commits a crime should be excused from taking responsibility for his or her actions.

"Absolutely not," Hilkey replied.

"Does it mean that every sex addict who commits a rape is automatically excused from that rape, simply because they have this impulse control problem with sex?" Saacks asked.

"Absolutely not," Hilkey said.

23 Comments

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  • canucmypointofview May 29, 2012

    I would have a VERY hard time hearing this lady testify re: my mother's RAPE when she keeps calling it penetration..

  • IzzMad2016 May 25, 2012

    What does it matter if he fully realized the consequences of what he was doing? I mean, seriously, what does it matter? He isn't as mentally deficient as his attorneys would like the jury to believe. He left his house to steal. He broke into a home. He had a rock in his hand that he certainly didn't find inside the house and he hit that poor woman repeatedly with it. He refused to give DNA when initially asked. He's not crazy. He's a criminal and he deserves to be jailed (or worse).

  • davidgnews May 25, 2012

    ".....oh but first make sure the jury is "Racially Representative" so as not to insult this rapist/murderers racial sensibilities!"

    That's totally irrelevant here, but thanks for playing! It's clear who has 'what sensibility' and 'where.'

  • SailbadTheSinner May 25, 2012

    I’m afraid that I’m not overly concerned if he ‘knew the consequences’ of his actions or not.

    To my old-fashioned way of thinking, the man is a killer….

    It’s a matter of little importance to me whether he is executed or spends the rest of his days locked away.

    As long as he’s kept from doing others harm it’s all the same….

    STS

  • RonnieR May 25, 2012

    I don't see a problem for the State. First Degree Burglary and First Degree Rape are two felonies that defendant has admitted to.
    Taft was killed in the course of commission of those felonies, that makes it Murder One based on the felony murder rule. Don't need premeditation, etc.

  • warbirdlover May 25, 2012

    This sex addict stuff is pure Bull Malarky. There are millions of people whom are Sex Addicts that don't go around Raping innocent people. They find willing partners who share their
    fantasys.

  • redrubberball1 May 25, 2012

    "I agree with perkhound: Drugs and alcohol don't give you free pass."

    Let's just suppose that possibly some people, after using drugs and/or alcohol, are not responsible for their actions. Well, they should be responsible for placing themselves in that influence, prior to use. Swift trial, sentence, review and execution in the courthouse square would bring just about all of it to a screeching halt! Demand that the criminal justice system sober up!!!

  • Whatthehey May 25, 2012

    "I do not believe that Mr. Williford had the ability to deliberate or consider the consequences of his behavior," Hilkey said. "I do think there was an element of planning, and I do think that he could plan to some extent." When asked about the assault and rape, "I don't have an opinion about that," Hilkey said.

    Huh? Did he or did he not? Only job other than weatherman where you pretend to be a real scientist and you don't have to ever be right to get paid

  • judithfergerson May 25, 2012

    I agree with perkhound: Drugs and alcohol don't give you free pass.

  • perkhound May 25, 2012

    He ran. He knew he had done wrong. Stick a needle in him.
    He had rock that was also planned.
    So I agree with these comments. No natural life so we have to look after him. Quick death penalty and no appeals he admitted he done it so be done with it. Drugs and alcohol don't give you free pass.

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