NORTH LITTLE ROCK -- A North Little Rock man who fatally shot a father of four was sentenced to 55 years in prison on Thursday by a jury that rejected defense claims authorities had disregarded the most compelling evidence someone else was the killer -- the victim's dying words to police.
The nine women and three men deliberated about 90 minutes to convict Jayaun Durham, 23, of first-degree murder for the April 2018 slaying of 41-year-old James Rideout Jr., who was killed in front of the family home at the Arrington Apartments on Camp Robinson Road in North Little Rock.
Prosecutors Tracye Mosley and Whitney Ohlhausen told jurors that Durham had stalked Rideout, then laid in wait for him and his family to get home from church so he could ambush the victim on his doorstep.
Jurors spent another 90 minutes to decide on a punishment for Durham that concluded the three-day trial before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Leon Johnson.
The 55-year term was the maximum penalty available short of a life sentence. Durham, who did not testify, will have to serve 38½ years before he can apply for parole.
The prosecutors told jurors that the three eyewitnesses to Rideout's slaying were the key to convicting Durham.
Two of Rideout's children, Aquilla Rideout, 13, and Jeremiah Donahue, 24, saw him get shot, and both were able to pick Durham's picture out of a photographic lineup the night their father was killed. Rideout had never seen Durham before, but Donahue had known him for years.
Neither had a reason to lie about what they'd seen, prosecutors said. Much of the third eyewitness' account was backed up by video evidence and other witnesses, the prosecutors told jurors.
That third eyewitness was the man who said he was with Durham when James Rideout was killed. Cortez Caruthers, 23, told jurors he had gone along with Durham to the apartment complex thinking they were going to buy some "lean," slang for prescription cough medicine, to use to get high.
Caruthers said Durham led him to an apartment, knocked on the door and then stepped back out of the line of sight. When Rideout stepped outside, Caruthers said, he was surprised when Durham began to berate the older man then came up with a gun -- his hand and the weapon wrapped in a plastic bag -- and opened fire. He said he and Durham ran back to Durham's car and left.
Defense attorney Bill James attacked their testimony as inconsistent, contradictory and lacking supporting evidence, telling jurors that Caruthers' account was particularly self-serving -- to keep prosecutors from charging him with involvement in the murder.
James, assisted by son Will James and associate Hayley Ferguson, said the best evidence came from the victim's final words to police officers who tried to save him. The officers, Matt Barber and Mark Wiggins, said Rideout was struggling to speak but they heard him say the name Jhonterryun Lowe, who is Durham's older brother.
Police had ruled out Lowe, 27, after concluding from his cellphone records that he was in Texas when Rideout was killed.
But who better to believe who knows who shot Rideout than the victim himself, James told jurors, saying police did not do enough to determine if Lowe was really in Texas.
Rideout suffered six gunshot wounds to his face, chest, stomach and arms, with medical evidence showing he'd been hit by at least four bullets. With his chest and lungs pierced by bullets, most of Rideout's final words were unintelligible to the officers, the prosecutors said.
Authorities attributed the attack on Rideout as part of an ongoing feud between the family and Lowe over the way Lowe had treated Rideout's oldest daughter, an ex-girlfriend of Lowe's. Durham had lost a fight with Rideout and the family about six months earlier, police said.