State News

NC high court weighs new trial for Jason Young

Posted May 19, 2015 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated May 19, 2015 4:08 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's highest court is considering whether a Raleigh man convicted of killing his pregnant wife should get a new trial.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in the Jason Young case.

The state Court of Appeals said last year that the trial judge shouldn't have allowed evidence about a wrongful death lawsuit and child custody complaint before his 2012 first-degree murder conviction.

The trial judge had declared Young responsible for his wife's death after he failed to respond to the civil claim. The default judgment did not declare innocence or guilt in the killing.

Young is serving a life sentence for the death of his wife, Michelle. She was five months' pregnant in 2006 when her bloody body was found in their bedroom with their unharmed 2-year-old daughter.

In the hearing Tuesday, prosecutors argued that the civil claim didn't prejudice jurors against Young.

"This marriage was in shambles," attorney Dan O'Brien said. "The defendant was sleeping with other women, including one in the house a week and a half before the murder. The defendant abused Michelle verbally. He said all his problems would be solved if he could just have a woman on the side. He felt trapped.

But defense attorney Barbara Blackman said allowing jurors to hear about the civil claim could set a dangerous precedent.

"It does pose this threat that the criminal justice system is going to be used as the pawn for those who are financially able or willing to institute civil litigation prior to the filing of criminal charges.

The Supreme Court could take months to reach a decision. If they allow the appeals court decision to stand, the criminal case would be sent back to Wake County Superior Court for a retrial.

"We appreciate very much the Supreme Court looking at this case,"Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said. "This case is of course is a very serious case. We will continue to fight for justice for Michelle Young."