LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A southern Kentucky man will get a new trial on complicity to murder and arson charges after the Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday found that the jury instructions in his case were faulty.
The unanimous court's decision overturned the conviction and 25-year prison sentence of 26-year-old Jonathan Young stemming from the death 68-year-old Thomas Max Martin and burning of his body on Aug. 25, 2010 in Monroe County.
A co-defendant, 25-year-old Jessie Parke, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in January to 30 years in prison.
Police say the pair shot Martin in the head and set his house on fire.
Young, who is housed in Green River Correctional Complex in Central City, argued that the jury instructions for complicity to murder were flawed because the panel wasn't required to find he acted with the intent to kill Martin. Prosecutors acknowledged the flawed instructions, but said any error was harmless because the evidence left no question about Young's guilt.
Justice Mary Noble, writing for a unanimous court, turned away the prosecution argument.
"This court ... cannot affirm in the face of an instructional error where the jury has not found that the appellant acted with a required mental state," Noble wrote.
Kentucky State Police said Parke and Young shot Martin multiple times in the head and neck with a small-caliber weapon.
Young turned himself in to police four days after Martin's death and told investigators Parke pulled the trigger. Young said Parke told Martin shortly before the shooting he would give him money if he could sleep with his wife. He also said they robbed Martin of his wallet and Xanax.
Police said Young and Parke exchanged text messages in the hours before Martin's death discussing whether or not to go through with the plan to kill him.
Young sent a message to Parke saying "Wana do tha Big Deal????????? Now".
Parke replied, "Kill Max".
Young then sent two consecutive text messages saying "Do it now".
Noble concluded that prosecutors had enough evidence with the text messages and witness statements to convict Young for his role in the killing.
"The text messages are a clear indication that (Young) was involved in the plot to murder Martin," Noble wrote. "In fact, in light of other messages, it appears that (Young) was soliciting Parke to go through with the killing."
Parke was arrested by U.S. marshals a week after Young's confession in a hotel room in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The case now returns to Monroe Circuit Court for a new trial.
Follow Associated Press reporter Brett Barrouquere on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBarrouquereAP