Michelle Young

Juror dismissed over Web posts in Jason Young retrial

Posted January 26, 2012 12:42 p.m. EST
Updated January 27, 2012 7:19 a.m. EST

— A Superior Court judge on Thursday dismissed a juror after concerns that he had been posting on an Internet message board about the high-profile trial of a Wake County man accused of killing his wife.

Defense attorneys for Jason Young on Wednesday told Judge Donald Stephens about the postings in which two users wrote that they were among a pool of potential jurors.

One of the users was selected for the jury, the other was not.

The juror, Drew Rogers, admitted to Stephens Thursday that while he was in the jury pool he posted on the message board comments, like "LOL, we're going to be the worst jurors ever" and "confirming we are trying to drink our way out of jury selection," but that he stopped after he was called for service on Jan. 17.

At the time, Rogers told Stephens, he was joking and didn't think anything of the posts and never had any intention to talk about the case.

"I can be impartial," he said.

Stephens told Rogers that it was important for jurors to be unbiased and to appear unbiased to the public so that people don't lose faith in the justice system.

"The perception will destroy your integrity and the integrity of the process," Stephens said. "Do you think you should serve as a juror on this case in light of that?"

"Probably not, given the severity," Rogers replied.

"The public expects that we pick the best jurors, not the worst jurors," Stephens said before dismissing him.

Hart Miles, an attorney who isn't connected to the case, said social media should be central to the conversation with potential jurors.

"The judge will issue lots of warnings to the jurors, but sometimes things get said and communications are had that you can't un-ring that bell," Miles said.

Stephens cautioned two jurors chosen earlier Thursday about not talking about the case or exposing them to news accounts, blog and social media postings about the case.

"These systems may inadvertently be used to expose you to information about the case," he said. "Isolate yourself. People will understand. You must remain separate, detached, unbiased."

Eleven jurors are still seated in the case. Attorneys must now choose the final juror, as well as at least three alternates. Opening statements are scheduled for Feb. 6.

Young, 37, is charged with first-degree murder in the Nov. 3, 2006, beating death of 29-year-old Michelle Young, who was found on the floor of a bedroom in the couple's Wake County home.

He was charged in December 2009 and initially went to trial in June. Stephens, however, declared a mistrial after jurors couldn't reach a unanimous verdict.

Testifying during his trial, Young denied any involvement in the crime, saying he was out of town when it happened.