Michelle Young

Jason Young trial judge orders SBI probe into possible juror misconduct

Posted March 6, 2012

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— The judge presiding over the murder trial of Jason Young has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into possible misconduct involving a juror who might have talked about the case during deliberations.

Meredith Fisher, Linda Fisher Images: Jason Young retrial

The panel of eight women and four men on Monday found Young, 37, guilty of first-degree murder in the beating death of his wife, Michelle Young, who was found dead in the couple's home in November 2006. He is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

It was Jason Young's second trial. His first ended in a mistrial in June after a jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens met with prosecutors and defense attorneys about the misconduct allegation Tuesday morning after someone posted on WRAL News' Facebook page that a juror was reportedly communicating during deliberations with someone outside the case about the jury's progress.

"My hairdresser is friends with a jury member on the JY trial. They are now deadlocked at 9 Guilty 3 Not Guilty. It was 7 Not Guilty 5 Guilty!" according to one message posted around noon Monday.

In another post around 1 a.m., the same Facebook user wrote: "My hairdresser is friends with a woman on the jury. She was supposedly texting her telling her how the vote was going."

WRAL News reported the posts to Stephens upon finding them Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. Defense attorneys had also notified the judge about them.

"Although this social media conversation … is unsubstantiated hearsay and appears to lack any credible factual basis, it suggests that there is a question about the deliberative process of the jury," Stephens wrote in a letter to SBI Director Greg McLeod.

Young trial was emotionally draining, juror says Young trial was emotionally draining, juror says

It's unclear how an SBI probe might, if at all, affect the outcome of the trial, and attorneys declined to comment Tuesday on the issue.

Legal experts say that juror misconduct would not necessarily warrant a mistrial.

"Was there substantial and irreparable prejudice brought to the defendant's case?" Brian Boyd, a professor at Campbell University's Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, said. "If Judge Stephens, in fact, found that, in his discretion, we're talking about a new trial."

Jurors said Tuesday that they do not believe there is any truth to the claim.

"Judge Stephens was very clear throughout the trial that we couldn’t talk to anybody, and we’re all pretty close," Melissa Axline, who was juror No. 3, said. "I just don’t see anybody doing that. I think it’s absolutely false."

Anthony Fuller, juror No. 1, said cellphones were off and put away during deliberations and that everyone was trying to come to a unanimous decision with integrity.

Prior to giving jurors the case last week, Stephens ordered them to turn off their cellphones and not to communicate with anyone during deliberations.

Jason Young Young judge wants SBI probe into possible juror misconduct

Throughout the lengthy trial, he reminded them daily not to discuss the case with anyone and to avoid social networking sites and news coverage of the case so as to avoid any perception of bias and to help maintain the integrity of the justice system.

Early on in the trial, during jury selection, Stephens had to dismiss two jurors for talking about the case.

One man, who could be charged with contempt, reportedly was overheard discussing it at a restaurant. Another man was dismissed for posting comments about serving on the jury on an Internet message board.

Boyd says technology, social media and increased news access are posing more challenges in court cases. Jurors have easier access to research cases, know more about them before they go to trial, and there is more of a temptation to share on social networking sites.

"Now in this digital age, where all of us put our very thoughts and very impressions out there in the world, it's going to have a tremendous impact," he said.

Courts vary on their policies regarding jurors, Boyd says. Some have total prohibitions on cellphones and mobile devices.

In Florida, for example, he said, courts can sequester jurors, which is what happened in the Casey Anthony trial, so that they have no outside influences.

"It's very rare in North Carolina that we sequester jurors," local defense attorney Karl Knudsen said. "Maybe we might have to start thinking about that."

248 Comments

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  • dollibug Mar 15, 2012

    For those of you who might have questions about this case...
    please review the following link...
    http://stopwrongfulconvictions.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/similarities-in-the-jason-young-and-michael-morton-cases/

    OMG...2 cases similar...could it be true?

  • dollibug Mar 13, 2012

    ++++Jackleg.....your name says it all.....there is absolutely no way JY is innocent....the closest this jury got was on initial vote which was 9 guilty, 2 undecided and 1 NG....after reviewing testimony and evidence over 2 days they said they were 150% sure JY was guilty....
    rjtyler249

    It was NOT PROVED in court....anyway a person looks at this....time and time again....as the videos will never change....perhaps JY was guilty....based on exactly WHAT?
    I think this is the question....which has NO ANSWER....

  • dollibug Mar 13, 2012

    ++++Are we supposed to believe there was nothing wrong here?
    Vanilla Skye

    Well....it just depends on who is deciding what really went on....as I can assure you.....some attorneys are able to "twist and tweak" things in a way which seems legal....but not quite... but perhaps just enough to squeeze by with whatever they are trying to get by with....this happens...and it happens too much...laws are laws...and they should be the same for anyone and everyone....and I think we all heard the judge warn the jurors time and time again....each and every day that they were in court....they were NOT to communicate with anyone about what was going on during the trial....but I guess someone did not take him at his word...**better be careful of the words you speak and tweak....cause you'll never know which ones you'll eat**...perhaps this is what needs to be said about that...this will indeed be interesting to follow...I am assuming each juror was an adult and did understand ENGLISH..

  • Vanilla Skye Mar 12, 2012

    No update of any SBI finding as yet.???

    One person supposedly discussed the case and other one supoosedly tweeted the breakdown of the vote while in deliberations.

    Are we supposed to believe there was nothing wrong here?

  • dollibug Mar 12, 2012

    This will be an interesting case to follow...wonder whose side they will lean toward...and will the truth ever be revealed? So exactly who are people suppose to trust these days? I believe it just might be a toss up.....as those in charge can be as guilty of something as those who are accused....interesting though how some people has the power to get by with whatever they see fit to do....knowing full well that they are not doing what is legal and lawful...most people just take attorneys word at whatever they care to say....without questioning it at all....those in charge are getting by with things that they should be be doing in the first place....but it is all just in the game that these people play....it does not matter to them whose lives they are messing with....

  • lydavis4442 Mar 8, 2012

    HAS ANYONE READ THE OATH JURORS TAKE BEFORE THE CASE,I WOULD HATE TO SEE IT BUT I BELIEVE THERE NEEDS TO BE ANOTHER TRIAL,THEY TAKE THIS OATH AND THERE ARE SUPPOSE TO TALK TO NO ONE AND I BELIEVE THAT ALSO MEANS TEXT,AND SOME ONE DID SOMETHING FOR PEOPLE TO KNOW WHAT THE COUNT WAS AT SOME POINT ON MONDAY,i BELIEVE LIKE ANOTHER VIEWER THE SBI SHOULD VIEW ALL TEXT AND CALLS MADE DURING FRIDAY-MONDAY,EVEN IF THIS TEXT DIDNT MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITH THE VOTE,STILL THEY ARE UNDER OATH AND HAD INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE JUDGE,AND SOMEONE DID NOT FOLLOW THEM SO TO ME THAT MAKES THEM A QUESTIONABLE JUROR,AND IF THEY CAN NOT FOLLOW THE LAW I WOULD NOT WANT THEM MAKING A DECISION ON MY LIFE OR SOMEONE I KNEW THAT WAS ON TRIAL....

  • piene2 Mar 7, 2012

    """Double jeopardy is a procedural defence that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges following a legitimate acquittal or conviction."

    This doesn't apply if the judge sets aside the conviction because of a legal reason like misbehaving jurors.
    DontLikeTheSocialistObama

    That is why double jeopardy is usually applied to those acquitted, not those convicted.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Mar 7, 2012

    Scary thing to remember is that anybody can be charged, tried, and convicted in Wake County with lies, rumors, innuendo, along with no forensic evidence proving you committed the crime.

    Just be in the wrong place at the wrong time and you're on your way to prison.

  • bigt16701 Mar 7, 2012

    What happened??????????

  • bgcoving Mar 7, 2012

    This doesn't apply if the judge sets aside the conviction because of a legal reason like misbehaving jurors. -- DontLikeTheSocialistObama

    There is a less than 1/2 of 1% chance that the telegraphing of the verdict will rise to the level of juror misconduct necessary for a mistrial. On the other hand, it was reported in the N&O that another juror was openly discussing the trial in a public forum, and refused to stop even after being admonished by a listener to do so. If proven that could be more likely grounds for a mistrial.

    Regardless, my last word on this is that the man had his day(s) in court, a jury found him guilty so I seriously doubt he will ever see the light of day. In this sense the system has worked. Nevertheless, I don't approve of the prosecutions' methods and I will continue to advocate for the presumption of innocence and continue to demand a high standard for the state to prove cases based on their past history of prosecutorial misconduct. Never forget Darryl Hunt.

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