Murder trial still in upheaval over more documents not turned over to defense

Becky Campbell • Sep 25, 2019 at 11:04 PM

In a trial plagued by what appeared to be law enforcement and prosecution missteps that led to defense attorneys asking a judge to dismiss their client’s case, the third day ofMichael Young’s trial had a feel of a broken record when more documents surfaced that had not been turned over as required by law.

Young, 49, is on trial this week in the shooting death of 45-year-old Jose Mijares on Feb. 13, 2016.

Defense attorneys Rick and Matthew Spivey learned during testimony Wednesday that not only was a bullet recovered from a 2014 incident in which Young claimed Mijares fired a gun at him, but that the bullet was destroyed in 2015 after no charges were filed.

The night that incident occurred, Mijares told police he didn’t have a weapon — something his widow, Juana Mijares also testified to — and it was at that point Young said he began carrying his own handgun more often because he was afraid of his neighbor.

Matthew Spivey renewed, once again, a motion to dismiss the murder charge against Young.

“This renewed motion based on not only cumulative impact of some of the actions in this trial that we’ve moved for a mistrial on,” but also on information that surfaced Wednesday, including photographs of Young’s truck that he claimed had been shot at.

“The first time we ever saw those photographs was about an hour ago, and I noticed photographs on the witness podium and they were of Mr. Young’s truck,” Matthew Spivey said. State “counsel responded the reason they were not produced was because they were rebuttal. I moved for a sanction against” the state. “Those are actually very exculpatory in nature and support Mr. Young’s statements to the police throughout the process. In further support of that ... there are pages missing from those photographs .... it is a multi-dated report.”

The shooting

Police responded to the corner of North Roan and Lambeth on Feb. 13, 2016, after Mijares’ teenage son waved down a passing motorist for help. The teen said he had witnessed Young shoot his father.

The youth told police he and his father were on their way for coffee at a nearby market when a green vehicle pulled out from Young’s driveway and pulled up close to his father’s vehicle as they drove from their residence on Lambeth Court toward North Roan. At some point, the green vehicle, later determined to be driven by Young, went around Mijares and pulled in front of him.

When both vehicles stopped at the stop sign at Lambeth Drive and North Roan, Jose Mijares got out of the vehicle and approached the car ahead of them. The teen said his father was going to talk to the driver about why he had cut in front of them.

The teenager told police he didn’t hear his father say anything but saw the man in the green truck shoot his father. Mijares was shot in the chest and later died from his injury.

Mijares and his son Jesus, now 18, were headed to a convenience store for gas and coffee on a bitterly cold winter morning. The young Mijares  testified that a green truck, known to him to belong to Young, came barreling up behind their SUV and cut in front of them and stopped at the intersection of Lambeth Drive and North Roan Street.

Young’s testimony

Young testified that he had pulled out behind Mijares that February morning and it appeared Mijares was turning left off of Lambeth Drive, so Young went around him. At the stop sign of Lambeth and North Roan Street, Mijares got out of his vehicle and began to approach Young.

Young, who said he’d been afraid of Mijares since the 2014 gunfire incident, said he rolled down his window, grabbed his handgun and yelled several times for Mijares to stop. He said he even warned Mijares he had a gun and would shoot.

Young said that after Mijares swatted at him through the open window, Young leaned back and fired one shot.

Motion to dismiss

“The cumulative impact of what the state has done in the case is violated due process of the United States Constitution’s Fifth Amendment that applies to the state of Tennessee through the Fourteenth Amendment,” Matthew Spivey. “I just don’t understand what’s going on in this case. It’s something new with every witness.

He had asked for a dismissal on Tuesday after lead investigator Joe Jaynes took the stand. As he was answering questions from Assistant District Attorney Robin Ray, 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 Fifth 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.

The judge has not ruled on this most recent revelation of documents the defense just received. She said she would review all the arguments from the defense and state and research case law on which to base her ruling on the defense motion to dismiss.

There could still be more rebuttal testimony Thursday, but the case will likely land in the hands of the jury for deliberation. If convicted of first-degree murder, Young faces life in prison. He remains free on a $100,000 bond while the case is pending.

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