Michelle Young

Jury misconduct questions are disturbing, attorney says

Posted March 7, 2012
Updated March 8, 2012

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— Juror misconduct in the lengthy retrial of Jason Young won't necessarily mean a mistrial, a Raleigh attorney said Wednesday, a day after the judge in the high-profile murder case called for an investigation into whether a juror violated his orders during deliberations.

Meredith Fisher, Linda Fisher Images: Jason Young retrial

"Right now, all it is is something that's raised some alarms and suspicions and deserves some investigation," said Raleigh defense attorney and former Wake County prosecutor Karl Knudsen, who has no connection to the Young case. "What the investigation ultimately reveals will ultimately determine if it's something that could affect the outcome of the trial."

Young, 37, was found guilty of first-degree murder Monday, more than five years after his pregnant wife Michelle Young's beating death inside their Raleigh home. He was arrested in December 2009 and originally went to trial last summer, but a jury deadlocked on a verdict.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens on Tuesday asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into a Facebook post in which the user said a juror was talking about the progress of deliberations to someone who wasn't on the jury.

Throughout the trial, Stephens ordered jurors not to talk about the case to anyone and to avoid all outside information and discussions about it.

"We don’t know what the truth is, but the reports are disturbing," Knudsen said. "That somebody would be communicating during deliberations and revealing what was going on in the process would be strictly forbidden and would be a crime if somebody else tried to do it."

In a letter to the SBI, Stephens said the Facebook post "is unsubstantiated hearsay and appears to lack any credible factual basis," but it warrants a review because it "challenges the integrity of a jury verdict"

Jury Seats Attorney: Jury misconduct questions are disturbing

"The integrity of the court system is more important than any person, any case or any verdict," he wrote.

Stephens also sent a letter to jurors asking them to cooperate in the investigation.

"Do not be alarmed," he wrote to the juror forewoman. "This is not an entirely unusual event. Social media gossip postings frequently make unsubstantiated and unfounded hearsay claims such as these."

Three jurors, who spoke about the case Tuesday, said they find the misconduct claim hard to believe, because they took their job seriously and that cellphones were always turned off in the jury room.

Even if the claim were true and a juror engaged in misconduct, Knudsen said, it wouldn't necessarily mean a third trial for Young.

"Before they do anything that would upset the result of the second of two very long and emotionally draining and expensive cases, they are going to make certain they know exactly what happened or what didn’t happen," Knudsen said.

"If it went beyond just commenting about it and if that juror engaged in conversations with that other person that in any way affected deliberations, then that’s misconduct and could ultimately lead to a mistrial," he added.

Stephens did have to dismiss two jurors during jury selection for talking about the case.

One man, who could be charged with contempt, reportedly was overheard discussing it at a restaurant. Another man was removed for posting comments about serving on the jury on a North Carolina State University message board.

With the advent of social media and more access to technology, the issue of juror misconduct is something courts across the country are having to deal with.

On the same day that Young was convicted, The Wall Street Journal published an article about how social media is making it easier and more tempting for jurors to break the rules and that lawyers are increasingly using it as a reason for appeals.

In December, a murder case in Arkansas was thrown out because a juror had been tweeting during the trial, and a Florida juror was held in contempt of court because he friended a defendant on Facebook, the newspaper reported.

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  • Pippa LaRue Mar 16, 2012

    One small ray of hope is that the facts of this case are on JY's side. I believed the Defense attorney's when they said this crime has not been solved, and I believe THEY BELIEVE their client is innocent.
    I am confident they will continue to investigate.....sooner or later, the truth will come out.

  • dollibug Mar 16, 2012

    ++++Palm print on wall did not belong to Mr. Young. Prints on camera did not belong to Mr. Young. Car seen at the home around 5:30ish that am was NOT Mr. Young.
    Vanilla Skye

    And all of these were SOLID FACTS....which were ignored by the jurors....interesting that there was NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE which played into the conviction of JY but there were SOLIDS FACTS which should have pointed away from JY being the killer.....or at least should have presented reasonable doubt....

  • Vanilla Skye Mar 16, 2012

    Palm print on wall did not belong to Mr. Young.
    Prints on camera did not belong to Mr. Young.
    Car seen at the home around 5:30ish that am was NOT Mr. Young.

  • lynne0312 Mar 16, 2012

    Very well stated, jackcdneh1017. Comments from the judge and jurors following the verdict were equally shocking and disturbing because this wasn't an open and shut case by any means. Lots of unanswered questions remain.

  • dollibug Mar 16, 2012

    ++++Just by the nature of the jurors comments, it is very easy to see that the court did a very poor job of helping the jury be objective about what they were supposed to do. This case was a sham for justice. Shame on Wake County.
    jackcdneh1017

    This also proves that the system can just try em til they convict em....and it does not matter that there was NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE....and this pointed to JY being guilty of first degree murder....although it was also said that the jurors did NOT think that he did the crime alone....REALLY???????????????

  • jackcdneh1017 Mar 16, 2012

    There is a huge difference in believing someone is guilty versus believing that the burden of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt has been met. There is a great deal wrong with a system when two very different jury results occur within one year after the presentation of virtually the same evidence before two separate panels. The post-conviction comments made by jurors in the Young case make one shudder (or should) at the notion that any citizen could be found guilty of any crime based on a series of "coincidences" that while possible when viewed alone and without consideration of other known facts is completely implausible. It is very difficult to have faith in a system that permits a highly prejudicial judge to oversee a highly disingenuous prosecution. Just by the nature of the jurors comments, it is very easy to see that the court did a very poor job of helping the jury be objective about what they were supposed to do. This case was a sham for justice. Shame on Wake County.

  • dollibug Mar 16, 2012

    ++++This and the Cooper Verdict are the biggest injustices of all.
    Vanilla Skye

    There is a lot of CORRUPTION AND COVER UP..and the Judicial System is a part of them all..it is sad when innocent people through no fault of their own..get caught up in the system..lose a loved one and everything else that they have..many years of their lives in prison..knowing that they are innocent but they are STUCK THERE..between a ROCK AND A HARD SPOT..it saddens me to know that we call this kind of action "justice"..when in some cases..it could have been prevented..I can only hope and pray that those who are there..innocent and in jail for no reason..will someday get their "justice"..and be freed from the prison..and I have to wonder just how long this kind of "thing" has been going on and how many people died in a place that they did NOT BELONG TO BEGIN WITH..Lawmakers need to put a STOP to this kind of ABUSE..and yes..I believe that it is ABUSE..especially when there was NO SOLID EVIDENCE..

  • Vanilla Skye Mar 16, 2012

    This and the Cooper Verdict are the biggest injustices of all.

    Men being convicted because they either cheated or had people from their past parade through the courtroom with "stories"
    I hope someday both convictions will be overturned or at least they will get another shot at a fair trial.
    My heart aches for the Young and Cooper children missing their Daddy's.
    :(

  • Pippa LaRue Mar 16, 2012

    @odyssey24

    The Waters case was such an injustice. Thank goodness for his sister.

    Have you heard of the Ryan Ferguson case? It was on CBS 48 Hours. He was convicted of murder...because of a dream. His next hearing is April 16th. http://www.freeryanferguson.com/

  • Pippa LaRue Mar 16, 2012

    It is very interesting that certain posters must adamantly state that "its a fact that JY killed his wife and the trip tp and from his hotel is also a "fact". In a legal sense, these are now established as "fact" by the court as decided by jurors. But as legal "fact" there is room for much speculation and interpretation, yet some state "just by common sense" that the "JY lovers" are completely wrong to have doubts. It gives much pause for thought. How does one know for certain what happened to Michelle Young? The answer is no one can. ......jackcdneh1017

    Exactly, which is why the jurors saying they were "absolutely sure" and "150% positive" of JY's guilt is so troubling. Their comments reek of intellectual immaturity and reveal their total failure to grasp the concept of doubt.

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