Prison official: Williford presents 'unusual risk'

James Aiken, a prison management and inmate adjustment consulting expert
June 3, 2012 9:00:00 PM PDT
Before prosecutors and defense attorneys rested Tuesday, a jury charged with deciding Jason Williford's fate -- either life behind bars or the death penalty -- heard from Williford's aunt and a prison management expert about his life since the murder of N.C. State Board of Education member Kathy Taft.

Williford's aunt, Dr. Cheryl Kahn from California, at times struggled to compose herself while on the stand.

She told jurors her two sons are more than 10 years younger than 32-year-old Williford and haven't had many opportunities to spend time with him. If he is sentenced to death that may never happen.

"They want to get to know Jason," she said. "I think it's really important to them."

Williford was found guilty Friday of first-degree murder for Taft's 2010 death. He was also found guilty of first-degree rape and breaking and entering.

The same jury in the sentencing hearing believed Williford attacked 62-year-old Taft inside a home on Raleigh's Cartier Lane sometime between the late night hours of March 5 or the early morning hours of March 6. She died at WakeMed a few days later.

On the night Taft was attacked, she and her sister were house-sitting while Taft recovered from plastic surgery. According to testimony from a medical examiner, Taft had been sexually assaulted. Prosecutors said Williford hit her in the head several times with a rock.

Kahn told the jury her two college-aged sons could learn from their cousin if the jurors spared his life.

"Jason can tell my children what his life has been like and where it's led him and how much pain he's caused to other people," she said.

Williford's defense attorneys also called a prison management and inmate adjustment consulting expert who examined Williford's record behind bars while awaiting trial.

James Aiken said he considered Williford an "unusual risk" within the prison system.

"I am concerned he will be a victim," Aiken said.

He said on a scale of one to 10, he thought Williford was a negative-one for being a predator in homosexual encounters while in prison.

He said Williford adjusted well to prison life since his 2010 arrest.

During the trial, a mental health professional testified that on a scale of one to 20, to rate the severity of sexual addiction, Williford scored an 18.

Williford's mother also testified that as her son got older, she began to see evidence of sexual disorders, which she described in graphic detail for the jury. She also said she saw evidence of drug and alcohol use.

Aiken also told the courtroom that Williford got caught with homemade wine while in prison. He said Williford was written up for that and for hoarding medications.

Aiken added that Williford could be contained in prison without causing harm to others.

"He can be adequately managed and secured in a prison environment for the remainder of his life," he told the jury.

Final arguments in the punishment phase of the trial are expected to be presented Wednesday morning before jurors decide whether Williford gets life in prison or the death penalty.

It's been five years since a Wake County jury has handed down a death sentence.

In 2007, Byron Waring was sentenced to death for the murder of Lauren Redmond.

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