Jury begins deliberating in Raleigh teen drinking case

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The jury has begun deliberations in the trial of two Raleigh parents accused of aiding underage guests to drink at a 2014 wedding reception shortly before a teen died in a crash. The jury was sent home for the day just before 5 p.m. Thursday and will begin again Friday morning.

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Prosecutor Jason Waller said in his closing arguments Thursday that the teens were not hiding the fact that they were drinking at the reception, and that prominent Raleigh physician Charles Matthews, 59, and his wife Kim, 52, were "knowingly" providing alcohol.

"It defies reason and common sense to say [the Matthews] didn't know what was happening," Waller said. "The atmosphere was one of acceptance."

Waller ended the prosecution's closing arguments by saying the Matthews were having too much fun to take care of other people's kids.

After the reception on June 28, 2014, 18-year-old Johnathan Taylor - the son of a state trooper - died when his car slammed into a tree on Hunting Ridge Road near his North Raleigh home.

Defense attorney Hart Miles has repeatedly tried to have the charges against the Matthews dismissed - pointing out the caterer and bartenders who served alcohol at the reception were not charged.

"What kind of pressure is put on law enforcement when a state trooper wants criminal charges in death of son?" he asked in his closing arguments. "What kind of pressure for the Raleigh Police Department does that create? On the ALE? On the District Attorney's Office? I would submit to you that it does create pressure."

On Wednesday, the defense moved for a mistrial when prosecutors inadvertently flashed a photo of the crash scene on a screen in the courtroom that included the teen's dead body.

Johnathan Taylor

"It was a frightening and disturbing photo that drew a reaction from the audience," said attorney Hart Miles. "You can't unring that bell."

An audible gasp from Taylor's mother was heard when the picture appeared on the screen.

Prosecutors said showing the photo was an honest mistake. Judge Osmond Smith polled the 14 members of the jury and they said they could disregard the picture. He then denied the motion for mistrial.

Thursday morning, before both the state and defense rested, Raleigh Police Department RPD Sgt. Sean Hoolan, who was the lead investigator in the case, revealed on the witness stand that Mr. Matthews did not call Taylor's father as he previously told police officers following the accident.

The Matthews are charged with four counts of aiding and abetting underage possession and consumption of alcohol. Sgt. Hoolan told jurors he charged the couple after evidence showed four teens got drunk at the wedding party they threw at their multi-million dollar Raleigh home.

On Monday, their son Thomas - who invited Taylor and two girls to the reception as his guests - pleaded guilty to underage purchase of alcohol in connection with the fatal crash.

Authorities have said before the 2014 wedding reception, the teens drove together to the Cameron Village ABC store to buy a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey. None was of legal age to purchase alcohol, but the clerk allegedly sold a bottle to Matthews without asking how old he was or checking an ID for proof of age.

The teens drank the entire bottle before the reception and then allegedly continued to drink wine once they got there.

Taylor's blood alcohol-level was two-and-a-half times the legal limit at the time of the crash.

Cafe Parizade bartenders at the party and others involved were not charged or had charges dropped.

"I could not prove that Ms. Foster or Ms. Miller or anybody else from Parizade served J.T. or any of the underage people alcohol," Hoolan said.

While prosecutors allege the teens were drinking in plain sight of the Matthews, Miles said in his opening statement that they never gave permission for the teens to drink.

"You're not going to hear any evidence that they gave permission," said Miles.

The defense did win a battle Thursday by convincing the judge to include the words "knowingly provided alcohol" in the jury instructions.

Prior to the trial, Judge Smith ruled he would not allow jurors to hear what the teens in the case told cops about "past actions" at the Matthews' house. He also did not not allow a father to testify about his son's prior experience at the home.

On the witness stand Thursday, North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement agent Eric Hill gave a quick testimony about the difference between fortified and unfortified wine. The Matthews served fortified.

Fortified wine is a wine that has a distilled spirit, usually brandy, added to it - like Port or Sherry.

Earlier this month, Taylor's parents filed a civil lawsuit under a law that makes businesses that serve and sell alcohol liable for injuries caused when someone underage is served or an adult is over-served. The Matthews were later added to the civil suit.

The couple told the judge Thursday that it was their decision not to testify during the trial.

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