State rests in Jason Young murder retrial
Posted February 24, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County prosecutors, trying for a second time to win a conviction in the 5-year-old murder of Michelle Young, have rested their case against her husband after calling nearly 50 witnesses over the past three weeks.
Jurors spent more than two hours Friday reviewing evidence before the state concluded its 15-day presentation.
Defense attorneys will begin presenting their evidence Monday. They told Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens that they expect that process to take about four days.
Jason Young, 37, is charged with first-degree murder in the Nov. 3, 2006, beating death of his pregnant wife, who was found facedown in a pool of blood in the couple's home south of Raleigh.
He was arrested in December 2009 and originally went to trial last year, but it ended in a mistrial when the jury couldn't reach a unanimous verdict.
The state called one witness Friday – family law attorney Mike Schilawski, who represented Michelle Young's family in a custody case involving the Youngs' daughter.
Schilawski testified that the family initially sought scheduled visitation with the child after Jason Young cut off all contact and then sought full custody when neither side was able to come to an agreement.
Jason Young eventually signed over permanent custody to Michelle Young's sister under the conditions that he would not have to submit to a psychological evaluation or sit for a deposition.
"I would have asked him whether or not he brutally murdered his wife," Schilawski said.
Testifying in his first trial, Jason Young said he couldn't afford a custody fight, but prosecutors contend that he could have but avoided one so that he wouldn't have to answer questions about his wife's slaying.
Defense attorneys questioned Schilawski about the likelihood of a judge awarding their client custody given time constraints, the allegations that he killed his wife and a judgment against him in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings focused his line of questioning back to the visitation agreement, which was never reached.
"This cost that was going to be involved in all this was because of his lack of agreement, isn't it?" Cummings said.
"We tried to do it the easy and economical way, yes sir," Schilawski replied.
Prosecutors claim that Jason Young didn't want to be married anymore and that he had felt pressured to do so in 2003 when Michelle Young found out she was pregnant with their daughter.
Witnesses testified that the couple had a "volatile" relationship and argued frequently about sex, Michelle Young's relationship with her mother – with whom Jason Young didn't get along – and other issues.
Defense attorneys have conceded that their client wasn't a proper husband, but they say that doesn't mean that he is guilty of first-degree murder.
He could not have committed the crime, they have said, because the state's timeline doesn't fit, there's no physical evidence linking him to it and some DNA samples collected from the crime scene haven't been identified.
Compared with the first trial, the state's case lasted longer and included more witnesses, including two day care workers who said they saw the Youngs' daughter acting out her mother's beating death and a therapist who testified that a tearful Michelle Young sought counseling a week before her death in an effort to straighten out her life.
Prosecutors also focused on Jason Young's testimony from his first trial, in which he talked about what he was doing in the hours before and after Michelle Young was killed.
Jason Young said he was in Virginia on a business trip and asleep at a Hampton Inn, but the state says he drove 169 miles back to Raleigh, committed the crime and drove back to the hotel.