Blind Man Who Killed Friend Freed By Stand Your Ground

A legally blind ex-Marine was granted stand your ground immunity and walked into freedom Friday, after two years in Florida’s Seminole County Jail for killing a friend after a night of drinking beer.

40-year-old John Wayne Rogers (blinded in a work-related accident while working on a fire-suppression system in 2001), had been charged with first degree murder and was facing a life sentence in the death of James Dewitt, 34, on March 27, 2012.

John Wayne Rogers
John Wayne Rogers (Seminole County Police)

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Dewitt and his girlfriend, Christina Robertson, were at Rogers’ home in Geneva, Florida to drink beer and ended up spending the night. About 10:00 in the morning the group went to a store for more beer.

When they got back, Rogers testified Thursday, he had asked DeWitt to leave, but Dewitt attacked him, so he went into a bedroom, got his .308 Remington assault rifle, and walked back into the living room. He said when he pointed it in DeWitt’s direction, DeWitt charged him, and Rogers fired the rifle.

Robertson, a witness to the shooting, contended the shooting was unprovoked, and that the two buddies had been “play fighting” when Dewitt was shot once in the chest. Robertson, however appears to have been less than cooperative in testifying. According to court records, she had to be arrested and brought in as a material witness in the case.

It would be easy to see justification in a blind man’s self-defense case, yet Rogers is no stranger to violence. Four years ago, Rogers fired 15 shots from a handgun at Michael Rogers, a cousin and roommate, after another night of drinking and fighting, according to court records.

His cousin was bruised but not shot. John Wayne Rogers was charged with aggravated assault in that incident but made a plea deal, pled no contest to a lesser charge (unlawfully displaying a firearm), and was placed on probation, which was revoked when he pushed and punched a woman a year later, earning him 71 days in jail for domestic violence, according to court records.

Friday, after two days of testimony, the court at first denied a motion by Dewitt’s public defender, attorney Tim Caudill, for acquittal based on self-defense laws. Caudill then renewed a previously filed stand your ground motion, contending Rogers was just a blind man defending himself.

Judge John Galluzzo cut short the jury trial and issued his ruling, granting Rogers immunity from prosecution under Florida’s stand your ground law, before jury deliberations.

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Stand Your Ground Cases That Make Us Gawk

Is it surprising that most stand your ground news comes from Florida? But not every case in which someone claims stand your ground laws ends in death or makes headlines. Many incidents are low-profile or domestic. Yet all of them could be considered life-threatening. Here are a few you may have never heard of:

August, 2013: 34-year-old Matthew Henkel said, “fuck Trayvon Martin…fuck you” – a month after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin – and claimed he was standing up for kids as he confronted and shot an African-American man, Jamal Dixon, in Mount Oliver, Pennsylvania.

Jamal Dixon & Matthew Henkel
Jamal Dixon, left, and Matthew Henkel (photos: WTAE/Mt.Oliver Police)

Dixon, a 24-year-old college graduate and Iraq war veteran, was seriously injured but survived. He said he had his hands up when he was shot, then when he fell, Henkel shot him again.

Dixon who was outside his home, and had complained about kids hitting his car with a ball. Over a week later Henkel, a white man, was charged with aggravated assault. He claimed stand your ground immunity.

 

December 17, 2012: Michael Jock, 49, was in line behind Randall White, 52, at a Little Caesar’s pizza shop in St Petersburg, Florida, when White complained about slow service, shouting at the workers.

Jock told him to quiet down, they got into an argument, and White shoved Jock, who pulled out a .38 caliber gun and shot White, then fired again as they struggled. White survived two bullet wounds to the lower part of his body.

Michael Jock
Michael Jock (Pinellas County Police booking photo)

Jock told police he was justified, was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and claimed stand your ground immunity, which was denied. After trial last year, Jock was sentenced to three years in prison and two years probation on September 24, 2013.

 

Sept. 08, 2011: 69-year-old Milton Bennett Ellis Jr. claimed he was sleeping in a wheelchair outside a vacant Hooter’s restaurant in St. Petersburg when he woke up to find 22-year-old Josephine Smith on top of him, screaming that she was a vampire.

He said she bit his face and lip. Witnesses called 911 saying they heard a woman screaming and a man shaking her and trying to quiet her.

Milton Ellis and Josephine Smith
Milton Ellis and Josephine Smith (St. Petersburg police/Tampa Bay Times)

When she was found intoxicated, bruised, and partly clothed, Smith said she didn’t remember what happened. She was charged with aggravated battery on an elderly person.

Her attorney claimed police arrested the wrong suspect – that Ellis was bitten as he held Smith to the ground and sexually assaulted her. Smith filed for stand your ground immunity, but was denied, and later pled guilty to a lesser charge of battery. She was sentenced to 12 months in jail.

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