Judge allows murder trial to resume

Witnesses testify about what happened the night Black was shot, killed

Posted: Tuesday, February 13, 2007




The judge in the Shawn Rogers murder trial in Kenai on Monday found no willful withholding of information by the state prosecutor and allowed the trial to resume.

Retired Anchorage Judge Larry Card, who is serving as judge pro-tem in the Kenai trial, had granted a short continuance Friday after defense attorney Chuck Robinson accused the state of not disclosing information to the accused in a timely manner.

Rogers is the 33-year-old Kenai man charged with the shooting death of Brian Black, 43, of Beluga, in Fat Albert’s Tavern and Bunkhouse in Beluga in July 2004.

On Thursday, Rob-inson told the court he learned that state witness Rex Hunter was going to testify to hearing Rogers say, “I’m sorry; it’s all my fault; I didn’t mean to do it,” on the night of the shooting.

The state’s first witness — Chuck Thome — testified Thursday that he saw Rogers “stick the gun in Hawkeye’s ribs,” also a newly discovered statement. Hawkeye is the nickname of the deceased.

As the trial resumed Friday morning, assistant district attorney Scot Leaders was handed a photocopy of an investigating Alaska State Trooper’s notes made the night of the shooting. Leaders immediately had additional copies made for the defense and for the court.

Robinson said attorneys on both sides have been preparing for trial in the case for 2 1/2 years, and now is not the time to be bringing in new information.

Before the jury was called into the courtroom Monday morning, Trooper Sgt. Barry Wilson was asked about the notes.

He told the court he generally uses a large notebook when investigating a case and a smaller notebook if he needs to fly to a crime scene, which he did in the Beluga case.

Information from both notebooks, however, is included in his supplemental report, which he did forward to the case investigator, and which was provided to the defense.

“I can’t find there’s any willful violation in this case,” said Card.

“I’ve seen Trooper Wilson in court before. He’s highly credible. He’s an Alaska trooper we can all be proud of,” Card said.

Following a short break, Card called for the jury to return and testimony resumed in the trial, which is expected to continue through the entire month of February.

Leaders called Rex Hunter to the witness stand.

Hunter, an instrument technician for Chugach Electric in Beluga, said after the shootings in July 2004, he and Michael Beaudoin were called out from the Chugach plant control room as volunteer medics to respond to Fat Albert’s.

When they arrived, they saw Black on the floor with a number of people around him and saw Rogers lying down on the floor on the far side of the pool table in the barroom.

“We made a sweep of the area for weapons and didn’t find any,” Hunter said, when asked what he did first.

The emergency response technicians then began cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Black, though they did not find any vital signs.

After being relieved by Nikiski Fire Department paramedics when they arrived with troopers about 45 minutes later, Hunter said he was asked by troopers to keep an eye on Rogers, who had been taken, secured in belts around his hands and ankles, to an area downstairs from the bar.

“He was crying; he was distressed; he was rambling,” said Hunter.

When asked if he knew what Rogers was saying, he said, “Yes, he was saying, ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done it. If you let me go I can save him.’”

During questioning by Robinson, Hunter said he, Beaudoin and another volunteer medic took turns watching Rogers for about an hour while troopers interviewed other tavern patrons about the shooting.

Leaders also called Elsie Standifer to testify. She and some friends had been in the bar at the time of the shooting and she was among the first to administer CPR to Black.

Standifer said she overheard a brief exchange between Rogers and Black prior to the shooting. Not wanting to be in the middle of what she thought might become a fistfight, she moved to the opposite side of the bar from Rogers.

“I was moving away, toward Sandy (Cassandra Trenton), and I heard two popping sounds. I grabbed Sandy and she said, ‘Oh my God.’ I pulled her down (behind the bar) and stayed there,” Standifer said.

When she finally stood up again, she saw all the other patrons standing near where Rogers was, and saw Ron Thebeau coming past her holding a gun he had picked up with a napkin.

Asked what Rogers was doing, she said, “He was just screaming ... something like, ‘Hawkeye, don’t die.’”

The state is expected to resume calling Tyonek witnesses as the trial continues this morning at 8:30.

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