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Decade old mental health records inadmissible in Johnson City murder trial
Johnson City Press - 9/23/2017
Ten-year-old mental health records of a man gunned down by a neighbor last year won't be admissible at trial, but a judge still could allow more recent documents to say the victim was violent.
Michael Young, 47, of Johnson City, who faces a first-degree murder charge for the Feb. 13, 2016, shooting death of Jose Mijares, appeared Thursday before Washington County Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice for a motion hearing. His attorneys, the father and son team of Rick and Matthew Spivey, filed motions to introduce records from psychiatric treatment Mijares received at Woodridge Hospital in 2006 and 2014.
All of Mijares' treatments were related to his use of alcohol, records showed. In 2014, he asked his wife, Juana Mijares, to call 911 because he was hearing voices and he didn't want to hurt her or their children. During that hospital stay, Mijares told Woodridge staff he had thought of jumping off a roof but never followed through, and he had homicidal ideations toward a relative that he never acted on.
For Young to claim self defense, he must show reasons he was afraid of Mijares because of alleged violent behavior, which the defense is trying to tie to Mijares' alcohol use. Assistant District Attorney General Erin McArdle argued that Young had no knowledge of Mijares' personal life, alcohol use or admission to Woodridge.
Mijares was killed after a traffic encounter with Young that started on Lambeth Court near their homes and ended at the intersection of North Roan Street. According to police, Young cut Mijares off in traffic on Lambeth, and when they got to the stop sign, Mijares got out and approached Young's vehicle to talk about the incident.
Mijares and his son, Jesus Mijares, 14 years old at the time, had just left their residence and were headed to a nearby Roadrunner for coffee when Young drove up behind them, then around them and cut in front of Mijares' vehicle. Jesus Mijares testified at a preliminary hearing in March that his father got out of the vehicle and approached the car ahead of them after they stopped at the stop sign on Lambeth Drive.
"He was going to talk to the dude ? (ask) why he cut in front of us," the teen told police on the day his father was shot. Mijares said he didn't hear his father say anything, but saw the man in the green truck shoot his father.
"He tried to get back in the car but he fell," the teenager testified. "I got out of the truck and went to go check on him. I opened his jacket and there was a blood stain."
The defense also wants to introduce incident reports taken in May 2014 where Young called police several days in a row reporting that Mijares threatened him, that he fired a weapon and caused a broken vehicle window.
McArdle said police reports indicated the calls were unfounded and that Young was paranoid.
The state presented two witnesses for the hearing Thursday to support its position that Mijares was not violent and was actually a friendly fellow.
James Haselsteiner, whose back yard joins Mijares' back yard, said he often saw Mijares outside doing yard work and usually spent a few minutes talking with him. Haselsteiner said he was unaware Mijares used alcohol and never saw any violent acts or heard any altercation noises coming from Mijares' residence.
Juana Mijares testified her husband did assault her on one occasion, which was the morning he went to Woodridge in 2014. She said her husband pushed her and because she has weak knees, she couldn't keep her balance and fell to the floor. Juana Mijares speaks little English so questions to her and her answers were translated by a certified Spanish translator. Some of Matthew Spivey's questions seemed repetitious, but he said he wanted the "record to be clear" due to his difficulty understanding the woman's testimony.
The hearing ended without a final ruling on the 2014 records from Woodridge until Rice can review any follow-up records from the facility. The next hearing in the case is Nov. 29. Young's trial is set in January.
Prosecutors have tracked down five other people who reported encounters with Young in the three years before the shooting. Two of those witnesses were former neighbors of Young - one said Young pointed a weapon at her and the other said he was pushed after trying to talk to Young - but Rice ruled those incidents were not admissible to a jury.
Young is free on a $100,000 bond.