Jonathan Broyhill convicted of 1st-degree murder

Defense attorney Caroline Elliott, left, precedes murder defendant Jonathan Broyhill, center, entering Wake Superior Courtroom 704 Wednesday afternoon, March 18, 2015.
Defense attorney Caroline Elliott, left, precedes murder defendant Jonathan Broyhill, center, entering Wake Superior Courtroom 704 Wednesday afternoon, March 18, 2015.

For two weeks, the family and friends of Jamie and Nation Hahn have filled a courtroom at the Wake County Justice Center, comforting one another as witnesses described a painful event and becoming restless when the questioning in the Jonathan Broyhill trial seemed too protracted.

Their wait for a verdict was short on Wednesday, when the seven women and five men on the jury finally got the case.

In less than two hours, while family and friends of Jamie Hahn, the much-admired political strategist and her husband huddled outside the courtroom, the bailiff brought Judge Paul Ridgeway a message.

“We have a verdict,” Ridgeway said, calling the courtroom back to order.

Public Defender Joseph Arbour tried earlier in the day to persuade the jury that Broyhill, 33, the best man in the Hahns’ wedding, had not committed first-degree murder as prosecutors charged. He argued that Broyhill, a chronic liar who feigned many illnesses and stole thousands of dollars, was suicidal and turned the 8-inch butcher knife on himself first and then “lashed out” at the “two people he probably loved most in the world” as they got in his way.

But the jury did not agree with him.

They convicted Broyhill of first-degree murder in the April 2013 death of Jamie Hahn, just 29 when she died. They also found Broyhill guilty of attempted first-degree murder in the slashing of Nation Hahn.

The family and friends of the Hahns gasped again as the clerk read the news in the hushed courtroom. Tears of relief quickly followed.

“We are gratified by the jury’s verdict, and we are grateful to so many people,” Chris Kirk, Jamie Hahn’s father, said outside the courtroom after the verdict.

In a prepared statement he read with Nation Hahn and other family members by his side, Kirk acknowledged a long list of people who had helped them through “the difficult weeks of this trial and these terrible 23 months.”

“We will never be able to fill the hole left in our lives by the death of Jamie,” Kirk said. “Jamie’s death is a loss not just for our present and future, but for so many who were robbed of so much – the children Jamie and Nation would have parented, the lives that she would have changed for the better, the causes that she would have worked for, and the strangers who would have been greeted by her essential kindness, laughter and smile.”

They plan to return to court Thursday for the sentencing of Broyhill and make victim impact statements.

Before the jury got the case, Arbour talked about why he discouraged Broyhill from testifying in his own defense.

“He’s a chronic liar,” Arbour said, pointing to the witness stand. “A darn good one, and that’s why he’s not there.”

Still, after condemning his client, Arbour argued that the facts did not support the prosecutor’s claims of deliberation and premeditation, elements necessary for first-degree murder.

“A tragedy happened that day,” Arbour said. “People that Jon loved probably the most in the world were part of that tragedy that day.”

But in a conversational manner that lacked much of the antagonistic style of his questioning during the 10 days of testimony, Arbour went down a checklist for the jury to consider as they weighed what was and wasn’t evidence.

Prosecutors contend Broyhill engaged in a frenzied knife attack at the Hahns’ home on April 22, 2013, as questions grew about irregularities in a campaign account from which he had taken more than $45,000.

But neither Jamie nor Nation Hahn knew at the time of the attack that so much money was missing, Arbour said.

Jamie Hahn founded a political fundraising and strategizing company that had done work for former U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, a Democrat from Wake County. Broyhill helped manage the account, and during a two-year span took $46,500.

Jamie Hahn and Broyhill were to go over the books that Monday afternoon in April when the violence occurred. They also were to work on a quarterly campaign finance report for the Federal Election Commission.

Jamie Hahn knew a check to cover a $600 Time Warner Cable bill for the campaign had bounced, but prosecutors presented no evidence that she knew Broyhill had been siphoning off thousands of dollars for so long, Arbour argued.

Prosecutors argued that Broyhill lashed out with a butcher knife at the Hahns, waiting for an opportunity to cover up financial crimes that could have resulted in six months in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Faucette said Broyhill was “a self-absorbed” “master manipulator” and “the suggestion of mere suicide lacks believability.”

There was no suicide note, Faucette pointed out.

The web of lies Broyhill told over more than a decade – of the numerous illnesses he never suffered, the thousands of dollars he had been stealing from others, living a lifestyle beyond his financial means – were closing in on him.

“Jamie and Nation did not know the real Jonathan Broyhill. There was no real, genuine friendship. That is painfully obvious,” Faucette said.

There is evidence that Broyhill booked a train trip to Charlotte for that day, then changed the reservation for the next day after missing the train. There also is evidence that he was online several hours before the stabbings, searching Orbitz for a plane ticket from Charlotte to Las Vegas.

Arbour described those details as evidence that he planned to go to Las Vegas and kill himself.

“This makes no sense about a coverup,” Arbour said. “So why does he do it?”

“I think it’s about attention,” Arbour said. “This is a guy who wants attention. He’s craving it.”

Arbour, using photographs taken inside the Hahns’ home and a diagram of the first floor, pointed to blood stains and an overturned chair to describe what the defense contended happened.

Broyhill took the 8-inch Oneida butcher knife he had purchased at a Harris Teeter eight days before the attack and removed it from his backpack.

Jamie Hahn, who had been on the phone in a nearby room, could see through the French doors, Arbour said.

“Nobody considered that maybe she walked in on him killing himself and tried to stop him,” Arbour said. “Maybe he was trying to kill himself and this young woman who cared for him like a mother walked in and tried to stop him.”

Nation Hahn was upstairs in the bathroom when he heard his wife scream out his name and Broyhill’s alternately.

He was halfway down the stairs when Jamie Hahn called out: “He’s trying to kill me.”

“He had finally reached the point where this was it. ‘I’m going. I’m checking out, and these people are going to stop me,’” Arbour said.

Jamie Hahn had been stabbed in her back, chest, face and abdomen. One of the wounds severed an artery. Another was through her liver.

“This was an act of wild violence,” Arbour said. “He did not premeditate and deliberate this. He is not guilty of first-degree murder.”

Broyhill was found by police inside the house, the skin on his wrists slashed open, and his abdomen opened so wide that his intestines were visible, according to testimony.

“This is a guy gone wild, with passion with more than reason,” Arbour said. “He had no intent to kill Jamie; he’s just lashing out. … He had no intent to hurt Nation; he’s just lashing out.”

Arbour told the jury that Broyhill wanted to go to trial because he wanted to serve time for the crimes he committed.

“He’ll serve his punishment for what he did, not for something being trumped-up against him,” Arbour said in his closing argument.

Blythe: 919-836-4948;

Twitter: @AnneBlythe1