Midtown Raleigh News

All testimony complete in Williford trial

Jurors heard the last bit of evidence in Jason Williford’s capital murder trial Tuesday, clearing the way for them to begin deciding whether to recommend the death penalty as early as Wednesday.

As one of its final witnesses, the defense team called prison consultant and former warden James Aiken. In his report, Aiken concluded that the North Carolina prison system could adequately house the 32-year-old convicted killer and rapist, but that he would be vulnerable both as a sex offender and an unseasoned inmate.

“All (prisoners) hate sex offenders,” Aiken said. “He has no clout.”

While behind bars, Williford has accumulated two infractions: hoarding medication and attempting to make homemade wine, or “buck,” Aiken said.

Aiken also showed jurors pictures of the interior of Central Prison in Raleigh, describing the life of a long-term inmate.

“A lot of old-timers call it ‘on the shelf,’ and that’s what they mean,” Aiken said. “The whole world passes you by. I have been around convicts that have literally forgotten whether you go on the red light or the green light. That’s prison.”

Prosecutors are seeking lethal injection for Williford, convicted in the rape and murder of Kathy Taft, a 62-year-old mother, grandmother and member of the state Board of Education. A Greenville resident, she was recovering from cosmetic surgery on the night of her 2010 attack in a house on Cartier Drive in Raleigh.

The final witness jurors heard Tuesday was Cheryl Kahn, Williford’s aunt and a radiologist in California.

She spoke of her own two sons’ reactions when they learned of the arrest of their cousin, whom they do not know well.

“They want to know Jason,” she said, tearful. “I think it’s really important to them.”

On cross-examination, she said the trial has been painful for Taft’s family, too.

Closing arguments in the sentencing phase will start Wednesday morning.