Raleigh, N.C. — A Superior Court judge on Tuesday denied Jason Young’s efforts to obtain a new trial in his wife’s death more than a decade ago.
Jason Young was sentenced five years ago to life in prison after he was found guilty of first-degree murder in the November 2006 death of Michelle Young, whose beaten body was found inside the couple’s home as their young daughter wandered in and out of the room.
Young appealed his conviction, and the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled in 2014 that he should get a new trial.
The court said the trial judge shouldn’t have allowed testimony about a wrongful death judgment against Young in a civil lawsuit filed by Michelle Young’s family and about a child custody dispute between Young and his in-laws.
Prosecutors appealed that ruling to the North Carolina Supreme Court, which said the Court of Appeals erred in ordering a new trial but said other issues from the trial needed further review. The appeals court then kicked the case back to Wake County Superior Court for another hearing.
Young’s defense arguing in a June hearing that the attorneys at his trial should have filed motions and registered objections to keep the evidence out of the case. His current attorney pointed to Young’s first trial, which ended with a jury split 8-4 in favor of acquittal, and noted the only difference in the retrial that ended in a guilty verdict was the evidence of the custody dispute and wrongful death judgment.
Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway called such a comparison between the two trials “overly simplistic,” noting in his 51-page ruling that prosecutors were able to use Young’s testimony from the first trial to attack him in the second.
“Because defendant testified at the first trial (and not at the second), the State was able to develop compelling evidence that defendant’s first public statement, made 1,693 days after the murder and after he had reviewed all of the State’s evidence against him through discovery and trial, was one of a guilty man who murdered his wife rather than a man who loved his wife. It was a statement that the State could impeach and to use to raise doubt about defendant’s alibi,” Ridgeway wrote.
“Because of the strong circumstantial evidence establishing defendant’s guilt, the impeachment of his alibi, and the evidence of defendant’s conduct following the murder, the Court concludes that the errors of counsel were not sufficiently prejudicial to support the relief now sought by defendant,” the judge ruled.