Local News

Body of deceased teen accidentally shown in court

Posted July 29, 2015 8:13 a.m. EDT
Updated July 29, 2015 6:58 p.m. EDT

— Defense attorney Hart Miles asked Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith to declare a mistrial in the case against Dr. Charles and Kimberly Matthews Wednesday afternoon after the prosecutor inadvertently showed a photo of a teen who died in a car accident after drinking at the Matthews home.

The Matthewses are charged with supplying alcohol to minors at a June 2014 wedding party. Jonathan "JT" Gregory Taylor, 18, died that night when his vehicle hit a tree.

When the photo of Taylor’s corpse appeared on the courtroom projection screen, his mother, Connie Taylor, gasped, then immediately doubled over and began crying. His father, Greg Taylor, immediately ran out of the courtroom.

Miles argued that the prosecution's use of the photo, although accidental, and the reaction from the Taylors was prejudicial to his client.

After meeting with Miles and Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller, Smith asked each juror whether he or she could discount the photo and the reaction in ultimately deciding whether the Matthewses are guilty. All answered yes, and Smith denied the motion for a mistrial.

Much of the afternoon testimony came from law enforcement officers who responded to either the Matthews' home or the Hunting Ridge Road crash scene.

Raleigh Police Officer Pete Manukas, a crash reconstruction specialist, told the court that he estimated JT Taylor's BMW was going about 89 mph when it left the roadway.

Adults saw teens drinking at Matthews' wedding

Earlier Wednesday, Sharon Beineke, an English teacher at Ravenscroft High School, said she noticed some of her former students at the party with wine glasses.

"I spoke to them and said, 'This is awkward. Don't you think this is awkward?" Beineke said. "One said, 'You can't do anything, Mrs. B. We've graduated, and we're not your kids."

A wedding photographer testified he saw the teens drinking throughout the night and had a conversation with them late in the party. He said they were hard to understand because they were so impaired.

Wedding guest Brian Johnson testified that he urged JT Taylor to get a ride home.

"I blatantly asked him, 'What are you on?' He said he was inebriated and he was stoned," Johnson said.

The question before the jury is whether the Matthews are criminally responsible for providing that alcohol. Each faces four counts of aiding and abetting the consumption of alcohol by minors.

"This trial is about the Matthewses and what they did that night to allow this to happen," Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller said Tuesday. "Your responsibility is to figure out: Could they have put a stop to this?"

The Matthews' attorney, Hart Miles, tried to distance the couple from the underage drinking during his opening statement. He called the teens who drank at the party "selfish, inconsiderate, reckless" and said the couple had little interaction with their younger guests.

Before the trial began, Miles moved to dismiss the charges against his clients on that argument, but a judge denied his request.

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.