ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Laura Rideout, the woman who was previously sentenced to 25-years-to-life in prison for the 2016 murder of her estranged husband, was denied a new trial Monday.
Laura and her son, Colin Rideout, were convicted of killing Craig Rideout in the basement of their home five years ago.
Laura’s attorney, David M. Abbatoy Jr., argued in court Monday that the jury who convicted her was not unanimous in their decision of who committed what crime.
“Anytime a person appears in court and there is a trial, the jurors have to be unanimous with respect to the verdict. In this case, the judge specifically gave a jury instruction that permitted a non-unanimous verdict and there was a recent Supreme Court case that we believe doesn’t allow that type of jury charge anymore, so we asked the court to grant a new trail because it permitted a non-unanimous verdict,” Abbatoy Jr. explained.
He argued, if Laura is going to spend her life behind bars, the jury should be clear on what crime she committed.
“Before someone is required to spend the rest of their life in jail, the jurors should all agree on what happened, what the person did wrong, who did what, and if there wasn’t anything that person did wrong , they should be provided with the opportunity to acquit that person,” Abbatoy Jr said.
During his argument, Mabbatory Jr. referenced this Supreme Court ruling from last year that banned non-unanimous jury convictions in state courts.
“The prosecutor wasn’t required to, so they didn’t actually attempt to prove, who did what in this case and actually proving what criminal act a person has committed is sort of the central job of the prosecutor in our system of justice,” Abbatoy Jr. said. “Unfortunately the jury charge in this case created an environment where not only did the prosecutors not have to come up with a real theory of what, if anything, they think she did wrong, but the jurors also didn’t have to decide that either.”
However, the judge ultimately denied the motion Monday, meaning Laura will stay in prison. Judge Thomas Moran said this issue should have been brought up a while ago. Moran and prosecutors also said the Supreme Court cases referenced were related to other issues, in other states.
“This is a very complicated issue of law that I think a lot of lawyers would have a difficult time understanding because it’s a tortured, in my opinion, of what a US Supreme Court case and as you heard, that case was designed to prevent injustice in our country and we do not have that same injustice in New York and we never did,” said Leah Mervine, the Chief of the Appeals Bureau with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.
Mervine said the 12 jurors in the trial reviewed all the evidence and justly decided Laura Rideout should be charged with 2nd degree murder.
“Unanimous means that a jury agrees on all the elements of a crime, and here, they agreed that Ms. Rideout either acted as a principle or an accomplice to kill her estranged husband, and therefore, based on the fact that all those elements were found, Ms. Rideout was guilty of murder in the second degree,” said Leah Mervine, the Chief of the Appeals Bureau with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.
As background, Laura Rideout was convicted of second degree murder, two counts of tampering with evidence, and second degree burglary in 2017.
These charges came after her estranged husband, 50-year-old Craig Rideout, was found dead in July of 2016. Yates County investigators found his body in a wooded area in Penn Yann, wrapped in a tarp with bungee cords, and with his face disfigured from acid.
A medical examiner found the cause of this death to be strangulation and blunt force trauma.
Colin Rideout, Laura’s son, was also convicted of second degree murder and remains in prison with 25 years to life.
Laura’s other son, Alex Rideout, was also convicted of tampering with evidence in this case, but was released from prison earlier this year after being granted parole. Authorities say Colin and Alex tried to dump evidence — like gloves, solvents, and drain cleaner — into a pond at Mendon Ponds Park.