Judge rules lost evidence doesn't warrant murder charge dismissal

Becky Campbell • Jan 9, 2018 at 6:59 PM

A Washington County Criminal Court judge ruled Tuesday she will allow a first-degree murder trial to proceed even though police investigators recorded over evidence, a video of a brief interview with a homicide victim’s teenage son.

Michael W. Young, 47, of Johnson City, faces one count of first-degree murder in the Feb. 13, 2016, shooting death of Jose Mijares at the corner of Lambeth Drive and North Roan Street. His son, Jesus Mijares, saw his father’s shooting and was later interviewed by police. Part of the interview was recorded, but wasn’t pulled from the department’s hard drive and was eventually recorded over.

Judge Lisa Rice 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 heard on Tuesday came about 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.

Both Juana Mijares and her son, Jesus, testified at the hearing Tuesday. Juana Mijares, through a Spanish-to-English interpreter, said that she and her son met with a police officer in a small interview room at the Johnson City Police Department after the shooting. She said the officer wrote some things on a piece of paper and her son signed it. Mijares said she didn’t understand what the officer asked her son because she doesn’t speak English.

Juana Mijares said she later asked her son what was said, and he told her the officer asked him to say what he had seen happen. She went on to say that it wasn’t until five or six months later that her son was able to tell her what had happened because he was so upset about seeing his father shot. Jesus Mijares also testified Tuesday, but had trouble remembering the sequence of events. He testified that he and the officer were the only two in the room when he told the officer what had happened.

“This young man just testified the police officer told him the interview would be taped,” Young’s attorney, Matthew Spivey, argued. “There are some concerns about the video tape and why we don’t have the videotape.”

Rice acknowledged the boy “was clearly under stress” but she disagreed with state prosecutors that the more detailed affidavits from the mother and son were actually more beneficial to the defense.

“I disagree with the state that the defense has much more,” and nothing replaces the actual evidence, Rice said.

But again, Rice ruled that there was not sufficient reason to dismiss the murder charge against Young. Young is free on a $100,000 bond while the case is pending. His trial is scheduled to begin July 16. There will be another motion hearing in May.






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