At the conclusion of the trial some of the jurors spoke of all of the “weird things” that went on that convinced them that Jason Young must be guilty. Many local people continue to reference the strange things with the camera that were presented at the trial.  I don’t think many really understand the details and how ridiculous this all was.  If the only thing one knows is: “cameras were tampered with twice and a rock propped open an exit door at the Hampton Inn the very night that Michelle Young was murdered” it does sound pretty suspicious, but after listening to the testimony, viewing the photos, considering the timing and the absence of evidence that should be there, I’m 100% convinced that all of this camera “evidence” is nonsense.  It’s important to address this though, because I don’t believe he could have been convicted without this.

In order for the State’s theory to work, they need to show that Jason Young left the Hampton Inn that night.  This was accomplished by presenting suspicious camera activity testified to by Keith Hicks, the 3rd shift worker present that night.  I should mention that none of this is documented in any way.  There are no camera shots with time stamps showing that the camera was in fact unplugged and later, allegedly angled upright.  If there were, they were not presented at the trial.

Since the specifics are apparently unclear to many, I’m going to break this down in bullet points.

  • Keith Hicks (Hampton Inn 3rd shift worker) testifies that ALL doors are locked 24/7 except for the front entrance.
  • Keith Hicks testified that he delivered the receipts to each room, by placing them under the guests’ doors at 3:30-4AM.
  • He then walked down the stairwell from the 4th floor and happened to notice a rock in the emergency exit door.  He kicked it out and secured the door.

  • Understand that he would have had to have seen the rock from the top of these steps.

  • The above photo was said to be “the” rock that “propped” open this heavy steel exit door and was somehow visible from the inside.  Hicks said he kicked it to this spot and locked the door.  Seriously.  This tiny pebble propped open a door.
  • Next, Hicks went back to the front desk and noticed the camera located above this door was black (video at link).  He investigates, sees that it’s unplugged and a bit later tells the maintenance worker.
  • Claimed to go with maintenance worker to show him unplugged camera, then returns to front desk.
  • Estimated camera to be 9-10 feet up and that the maintenance worker needed a ladder to plug it back in.
  • He testified that approximately 20 minutes later he noticed the camera pointed upward.  This would have been sometime between 4-5AM.
  • Newspapers were delivered to all Hilton Honors guests by placing the paper in a plastic bag and hanging it on the door at 4:30-5 AM.

Some basic facts:

  • The video monitor of the cameras is located behind the front desk, in the office.
  • The feed cycles every 14 seconds.
  • The screen is split so that 4 camera feeds are shown at one time.
  • There were no photos presented at the trial of the blacked out camera with date/time, the camera tilted up with date/time or the camera shot just before the camera blacked out.
  • Very important: Jason would have had to enter through the glass door adjacent to the exit door that was previously propped open because Hicks secured it (Darn!  All that trouble for nothing).  He is not seen on camera entering that door.
  • DNA and fingerprints were found on the pipe above camera and the camera itself.  They did not match Jason’s.

What we know about Jason’s activities:

  • He checked in at approximately 11PM
  • At around midnight he went to the lobby area and grabbed a newspaper, then is seen on camera heading toward the door to the stairwell just after that.

  • He said he was stepping outside to smoke a cigar and look at the newspaper.  There is a “no smoking” policy at the hotel.
  • There is no key card activity during his visit except for just after he checked in.  He said he did not need his room key to reenter the room because it didn’t fully close so he just let it remain slightly open. (Don’t many people do that?)
  • There is no computer activity where Jason researched security cameras and how to deactivate them.
  • There is no computer activity where he scoped out “cameras at Hampton Inns”.
  • His phone activity with a friend was normal and would have ended just before he allegedly tampered with the camera.  He would have had a short window (8 minutes maybe?) to accomplish this and to somehow evade being seen in the cameras in the hallways and the camera that was allegedly unplugged.

The State’s contentions:

  • The State suggested that instead of leaving his room, he should have gotten sports scores online and no one ever claimed to see him smoke a cigar.  Also, that it was too cold and windy to smoke a cigar.  (I guess to be safe, we should never leave our hotel room once checking in.  All activity may be noted as “suspicious”)
  • The State contends that he left his door propped open all night long while making the trip back to Raleigh to commit the murder.  Remember, Hicks placed a newspaper on his door at around 5AM, yet never mentioned that the door was open.
  • The state contends that he somehow managed to find a ladder to tamper with a camera to leave w/o being seen; yet just after blacking out the camera decides to show himself in the lobby camera and hallway camera.
  • The State contends that not only was he banking on his room door remaining propped open all night….he also needed the emergency exit door to remain open.  If anything goes wrong, his whole alibi falls apart. (Darn!  Why did Hicks have to kick that rock out?!  At least the glass door was miraculously unlocked).

Questions:

  • How was Jason able to evade the cameras
    • while unplugging the stairwell camera?
    • while entering through the glass door (that Hicks now says is unlocked at 6, but in the 1st trial stated it was locked 24/7)?  The camera was right above the door.  How did he time it just right to avoid it. 
    • while walking down the 4th floor hallway to his room that morning?  This would have been extremely risky.  One camera shot or closed door and his alibi falls apart!
  • Why would he go through the trouble of unplugging a camera and “propping open” a door to come and go undetected and then head back to the lobby to be seen on cameras there?
  • If he’s going all the way to Raleigh to commit the perfect murder, why not give himself all the time possible?  Instead he just HAD to get that newspaper.  Why?
  • How did he reach the camera?  Hicks testified that the maintenance worker needed a ladder to fix it.
  • Logic would tell you that the same person who unplugged the camera also pushed it upward. According to the State, Jason was in Raleigh or driving back to VA at 4-5AM.  He could not have pushed up the camera.

What it comes down to is lots of clever smoke and mirrors presented to the jury to convince them that Jason must have messed around with a camera to pull off this crime.  It was all an illusion.  I’m not even convinced that any of this camera stuff happened at all.  Show me the photos to prove it.  But this is how Wake county prosecutors operate.  This is similar to how they presented the “dress deception” and the “spoofed call” in the Cooper case.  No proof whatsoever, just lots of boring, dragged out testimony that is difficult to follow and in the end the jurors listened to the closing arguments and bought the idea that the alleged camera tampering was part of Jason’s grand scheme.  It sounds good…maybe it would make a good Lifetime movie, if it was true.  It is sad that we are convicting people to life in prison on illusions. I believe based on the facts that Jason Young was in his room all night just like he testified. With no proof otherwise, we must give people the benefit of the doubt.

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