Young defense casts doubt on state's case
Defense attorneys trying to keep Jason Young from spending life in prison for his pregnant wife's high-profile murder spent Tuesday calling several witnesses aimed at casting reasonable doubt in the state's case.Posted — Updated
Cindy Beaver, a resident in the Enchanted Oaks subdivision where Jason and Michelle Young lived, said she was driving to work around 5:20 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2006, when she noticed a vehicle pulling out of the driveway of the couple's home with a white male driver and a passenger whom she thought was a woman.
Beaver went on to work and didn't think anything of it, she testified. When she returned home later that day, she noticed emergency workers and police cars outside the home and a young woman, holding a child, crying.
She thought someone had died that afternoon, she said. It wasn't until days later – she said she didn't pay attention to the news – when coworkers were talking about the case that she connected the two events.
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings suggested that she had the day wrong.
"I drive by that driveway every day of my life just about, and there is no doubt," Beaver said of her testimony Tuesday afternoon. "It's been five or six years, and it's something you desperately try to forget."
Prosecutors contend that Jason Young, 37, beat Michelle Young to death in the bedroom of their Raleigh home at 5108 Birchleaf Drive and left their 2-year-old daughter alone in the house.
Meredith Fisher went to the house later that day at the request of her brother-in-law and found her pregnant sister facedown in a pool of blood.
Jason Young, who was arrested more than three years later, has said he was in Virginia on business and asleep at a Hampton Inn approximately 169 miles from Raleigh when his wife was killed. He went to trial last summer but the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, voting 8-4 in favor of acquittal.
Defense attorneys, who could rest their case as early as Wednesday, say that their client did not kill his wife, that there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime and that it could not have happened in the time frame put forth by the state.
Fay Hinsley, another resident of Enchanted Oaks, also testified that she was leaving her home around 6:15 a.m. that morning when she saw what she described as possibly being a blue or gray SUV that looked as it if were going to pull out in front of her.
"All of a sudden, there was this little car sitting there right on the edge where the crack of the cement and driveway connect," Hinsley said.
But she admitted she didn't know the address and wasn't sure about the make or model of the vehicle. On cross-examination, she said she saw the vehicle not on Birchleaf Drive but on nearby Enchanted Oaks Drive.
Hinsley's charm and personality during her testimony brought light moments in the courtroom and drew laughter from many, including defense attorneys, the judge and the defendant, after more than two hours of Cummings' intense cross-examination of Jason Young's mother, Pat Young.
Pat Young revealed that the family found a cigar humidor when they cleaned out the Young home after the murder.
The testimony bolstered part of her son's alibi in which he testified that, after being seen on hotel security video shortly before midnight on Nov. 2, that he went outside to smoke a cigar.
Prosecutors say that he hated cigarette smoke and that he really left the hotel to return to Raleigh to kill his wife.
Witnesses also testified that they had never seen Jason Young smoke a cigar and that he indicated on a life insurance application in 2006 that he hadn't smoked in the year prior.
Also helping the defense was Steve Hale, a private investigator, who tested the door of Jason Young's hotel room. Hale corroborated Jason Young's testimony that he didn't need to use his electronic key because the door didn't fully close.
Hotel records showed he used the card only once during his stay. The state's theory is that he somehow prevented the room door from locking, and used a landscaping rock to prop open an emergency exit he used to go outside.
Hale said that his tests showed the room door did not always close completely and that its bolt sometimes kept it from locking.
The emergency exit, Hale said, could be kept open using a twig, which Jason Young has said he used.
Prosecutors spent 15 days trying to prove that Jason Young killed his wife because he didn't want to be married or have a family. They have said that he cheated on his wife, partied, drank and gambled and wanted to spend time with his friends instead of his wife. Witnesses have described the couple as having a "volatile" relationship.
In one of several interviews with investigators, friend Brian Ambrose described Jason Young as a "manipulator."
Ambrose testified Tuesday for the defense about plans the two had made for a football game on Nov. 4, 2006.
"He has that personality where he can convince people to do things that might not necessarily be what they want to do," Ambrose said on cross-examination. "He was the fun person, the partygoer. The person everybody wanted to be around."
Ambrose said he never discussed with his friend anything about Michelle Young's death or about the murder investigation.
"I don't think I ever just point-blanked asked him, 'What do you think happened?'" he said. "I remember being frustrated in that I kind of expected him to talk about it and he never did. Just like everybody, we wanted to know something."
"Did he respond to you?" prosecutor Becky Holt asked.
"I don't recall what his response was. He never got into any kind of depth or detail about anything associated with the case," Ambrose said. "The only time when he would talk about it, he would talk about his frustrations with how everybody's hounding him and his family - the media and stuff like that."
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