- Judge Donald Stephens requests the investigation
- "I still have all the faith in the jury," says an assistant district attorney
- Jason Young was convicted of beating his pregnant wife to death
- He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday it will look into alleged juror misconduct in the murder trial of Jason Young, a man convicted of beating his pregnant wife to death.
Judge Donald Stephens requested the investigation after receiving information from employees of a TV station concerning Facebook posts by people who purported to know that a juror might have improperly discussed the trial with members of the public.
"In spite of the fact that this type of gossip is usually baseless, any information reported to the court that challenges the integrity of a jury verdict has to be investigated. The integrity of the court system is more important than any person, any case, or any verdict," he wrote in a letter addressed to the director of the SBI.
N.C. Department of Justice spokeswoman Noelle Talley later said that the SBI would open an investigation.
To his letter, Stephens attached a copy of the social media conversation in question, in which one post reads: "My hairdresser is friends with a woman in the jury. She was supposedly texting her telling her how the vote was going."
If the allegations of juror misconduct prove true, they would also have to be shown to have had an impact on deliberations to affect the verdict, said Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings.
"I still have all the faith in the jury," he said, characterizing the claims as unsubstantiated and "just junk."
Months after his first trial ended in a hung jury, Young, 37, was convicted this week of first-degree murder.
Michelle Young was discovered dead in 2006 in the bedroom of her Raleigh home. Her husband, Jason, first went on trial in June but a jury could not unanimously agree on a verdict.
But that was not the case Monday, when several of Michelle Young's relatives embraced and wiped away tears after this jury's decision was announced.
Afterward, Stephens ordered Young to be sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole.
The defense had argued that intruders, and not the defendant, had killed Michelle Young. They pointed to what they described as holes in the prosecution's case -- including the lack of blood in Jason Young's car and on the jeans he supposedly wore the night his wife died.