The first-degree murder trial of a 23-year-old North Little Rock man accused of killing a 58-year-old man who complained that the defendant was being stingy with a marijuana cigar ended Thursday with a hung jury.
Jurors deliberated almost four hours before reporting to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Leon Johnson that they could not reach the required unanimous verdict for Typaris Rome Johnson after two days of testimony and evidence. The 23-year-old defendant was charged with first-degree murder but jurors could have convicted on lesser charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Johnson and co-defendant Shaquan Markell Thompson of North Little Rock are charged with fatally shooting Allen Ray McGuire in January 2018 at the The Summit at Velvet Ridge apartments at 5120 Velvet Ridge Road in North Little Rock where all three had been visiting a mutual friend. Thompson's July 2019 murder trial also ended with a hung jury. He's scheduled to be retried next month.
McGuire was shot four times, struck by two different types of bullets, but no one saw the killing, making the murder case against the men purely circumstantial.
Johnson's attorney Angela Kendrick told jurors in closing arguments that the best prosecutors could do was prove that Johnson was present when McGuire, a father of 15, was killed.
She said the motive for the slaying was nonsensical and accused police of failing to fully investigate the slaying by ignoring evidence that others had been in the apartment when McGuire was killed.
Kendrick said the only witness who could claim to have seen a confrontation between the victim and defendants could not be believed.
That witness, apartment tenant Courtney Ann Hunt, 30, told jurors she and the men had been passing the marijuana around but that Johnson became angry and pulled out a gun when the victim accused him of hogging the drug. The victim also pulled a gun but the weapon was never fired.
Hunt had seven children in her apartment bedroom, her five plus two she was babysitting, and told jurors that when the guns came out, she ran to get them. Hunt told jurors she heard shooting as she ran to the bedroom, describing how she and the children climbed out of the window to get away.
Further, the only witness who claimed to have seen Johnson with a gun in the apartment -- one of the children Hunt was babysitting -- recanted that accusation before jurors. Clenton Withers, 16, had twice testified that he -- age 11 at the time -- was in the apartment bedroom when Johnson came into the room and got a gun immediately before the shooting, which occurred in the living room.
But Withers, the only defense witness, said Wednesday that wasn't true and that he never saw Johnson with a weapon. He testified police had pressured him into identifying Thompson and Johnson but ignored him when he said there had been other adults -- no one he knew -- at the apartment that day and night, coming and going.
Challenged by prosecutors, Withers said he could not remember what he'd said before given that he was so young at the time and five years had passed. Questioned outside the presence of the jury, Withers said he'd been threatened about his testimony before but said he was telling the truth now.
Deputy prosecutors Victoria Wadley and Erin Driver told jurors all of the evidence points to the defendants as being the killers. Both were seen with guns, just seconds before the shooting, with DNA evidence from blood at the scene showing that Johnson was in the living room.
They defended Hunt's credibility, saying that while she initially tried to cover up for Thompson, she almost immediately came clean about him and that her version of events has never wavered since. They told jurors Hunt had been traumatized by what she'd seen and what she'd had to do to protect the children that night.
Hunt's last view of the men was seeing an enraged Johnson, gun in hand, standing over the seated victim, prosecutors said.
Johnson is awaiting trial on felony marijuana possession charges stemming from a June 2017 arrest in North Little Rock, about six months before the slaying.