One question, one partial answer and one objection nearly led to a mistrial Monday afternoon in a 2016 fatal road rage shooting that left the shooter’s unarmed neighbor dead.
Michael W. Young, 49, Lambeth Court, was charged with second-degree murder after the deadly shooting Feb. 13, 2016 at the intersection of North Roan Street and Lambeth Court near Indian Trail School. That charge was later upgraded to first-degree murder. Jose Mijares, 45, who was unarmed, was killed by a single gunshot to the chest — something his youngest son, 13 at the time, witnessed.
The father and son were on their way to get gas and coffee when Young drove up on them, went around and stopped at the intersection stop sign. Mijares told his son he was going to see what the problem was and got out of his truck. Investigators said Mijares took a couple of steps before he was shot.
In her opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Erin McArdle told the jury there was no indication on Mijares or his clothing that the shot was from a close distance, and she said gunshot residue was found on the driver’s door and window sill area of Young’s truck.
Defense attorney Matthew Spivey, who is defending the case with his father, Rick Spivey, told the jury his client warned Mijares after seeing him get out of his SUV.
“ ‘Stop. I’ve got a gun. I’ll shoot,’ ” Spivey yelled, imitating the warning he said his client shouted at Mijares. Spivey told the jury the state’s scientific evidence isn’t what’s important in the case, but it’s the relationship between Young and Mijares. The neighbors had apparently had more than one argument over the years they had been neighbors.
The trial was moving quickly with testimony from two EMS paramedics and a police evidence tech. The first witness was a passerby who testified he stopped to see if anyone needed help before realizing there had been a shooting. Auburn Kirkman said a young boy was leaning over Mijares’ body and opened his shirt, The boy told the witness, “He shot my dad.”
Kirkman testified that he didn’t see Young on the phone until later during the incident, and after Matthew Spivey showed him the preliminary hearing transcript, in which Kirkman said Young was on the phone when he drove up, Kirkman stood by his testimony Monday.
When lead investigator Joe Jaynes took the stand, he was answering questions from Assistant District Attorney Robin Ray when she asked if he had contact with Young at the police department.
Jaynes’ answer sent the Spiveys to their feet to object. Rice sent the jury out, and for about two hours court personnel worked on technical issues retrieving the exchange between Jaynes and Ray. The answer he started giving indicated he went into an interview room where Young was and read the Miranda rights to him and “attempted” to talk to Young.
That, the Spiveys argued, was a violation of Young’s 5th Amendment right to remain silent — something the jury is not entitled to know unless Young takes the stand. The defense argued the state intentionally elicited the testimony from Jaynes to taint the jury because Young did not give a statement. Ray said she asked the question to establish why Jaynes was not interviewing other witnesses at the time.
Whatever the reason was, Rice said it was absolutely inappropriate for the jury to hear that testimony. To clarify what was said, Rick Spivey asked the court to replay the exchange. That’s where the real hiccup began after the recording equipment kept causing the court reporter’s computer to shut down.
Eventually the testimony was replayed and again Rice said it was inappropriate, but denied the defense motion for a mistrial and outright dismissal of the case. She did, however, later tell the jury to disregard the last statements they heard Jaynes testify about.
It wasn’t the first time Young’s case has approached the line of a near-dismissal. His trial was supposed to be held in February, but the week before, prosecutors located five police dash cam videos that had not been turned over to the defense. That February 2019 setting came after an earlier misstep by law enforcement for not preserving a short video of young Mijares and his mother sitting in a small interrogation room at the police department.
Rice had already ruled once on what’s called a Ferguson motion, which deals with lost evidence or evidence not preserved, after the defense learned about the recording. She ruled there was a failure to preserve evidence, but it didn’t rise to the level of warranting a dismissal of a first-degree murder charge.The renewed Ferguson motion was heard in January 2018 after the state filed more detailed affidavits from the young witness and his mother, Juana Mijares, about their interaction with police in the interrogation room.
Because of the technology issues Monday, Rice sent the jury home around 4:15 p.m. The trial will resume Tuesday morning. Young remains free on $100,000 bond while the case is pending.
Attorneys in a 2016 murder case began opening statements Monday morning, having selected a jury last week.
Michael Young, 49, of Johnson City, is on trial on a first-degree murder charge for the Feb. 13, 2016, shooting death of Jose Mijares. The men lived near each other on Lambeth Court. That morning, Mijares and his 13-year-old son Jesus Mijares were going to get coffee when Young sped up from behind.
At the stop sign of Lambeth Court and the Kingsport Highway, Mijares got out of his truck and took a few steps before being shot.
During opening statements, defense attorney Matthew Spivey said Young yelled at Mijares to stop.
“I have a gun ...I’ll shoot,” Spivey told the panel about his client. Spivey said Young called 911 to get help on the way, but the state’s first witness said he didn’t see Young on the phone until later. Spivey showed the witness his testimony from the preliminary hearing, which indicated Young was on the phone when he arrived.
The witness, Auburn Kirkman said there was a boy over the shooting victim. Kirkman said the boy opened the victim’s shirt, pointed toward Young and said, “He shot my dad.”
If convicted, Young faces life in prison. He is free on a $100,000 bond while the case is pending.