Jury finds Rogers guilty of manslaughter

Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Kenai jury Tuesday found Shawn Rogers not guilty of first-degree murder as charged, but guilty of manslaughter in the 2004 shooting death of Brian Black in a Beluga tavern.

The jury had begun deliberations Friday at the conclusion of the five-week murder trial.

Rogers, 33, of Kenai, was originally charged with one count of first-degree murder for allegedly shooting Black, 43, of Beluga, in Fat Albert’s Tavern and Bunkhouse July 26, 2004.

As instructed by Judge Larry Card, who was serving as judge pro-tem in the trial, the jury was allowed to consider second-degree murder and manslaughter as lesser offenses included in the charge of first-degree murder.

Rogers, who had been free on bail, was taken into custody and transported to Wildwood Pretrial Facility where he will be held without bail pending sentencing June 4. Before he left the courtroom, he hugged his mother and his sobbing girlfriend, Kari Worth, who was tending bar at Fat Albert’s the night of the shooting.

He can be sentenced to between five and 20 years in prison and fined no more than $250,000.

One juror contacted after the verdict was announced Robin McGee said the jury agreed early on to acquit Rogers of the murder charge, but disagreed when considering the other charges.

Jury foreman Jeff Avery said, “I thought it was the right verdict.”

When asked why it took nearly four days to reach a verdict, Avery said, “We wanted to make sure everything we did was the right decision; we wanted to make sure everybody agreed with what we did.”

The jury was also asked to consider two special findings, which could have resulted in the sentence being closer to the 20-year end of the range, but found that neither aggravator applied.

The first special finding was whether Rogers employed a dangerous instrument in the furtherance of the offense. Secondly they were asked if he put others at risk of imminent physical injury.

Defense attorney Chuck Robinson said, “We are pleased the jury found him not guilty on murder one and murder two, and without the special instructions, they would have found him not guilty of manslaughter as well.

“I’m pretty sure there’ll be an appeal,” he said. “First, that the indictment wasn’t dismissed in the beginning, and second that the manslaughter verdict would have been not guilty without the instructions on the special findings. If they wouldn’t have had that, Shawn would be a free man.”

Assistant district attorney Scot Leaders said, “I’m happy that the family of Mr. Black has the confirmation that, as they believed, Mr. Rogers caused the death of Brian Black.”

When asked if he was disappointed that Rogers was not found guilty of murder, Leaders said, “That’s why we have juries.

“They were not satisfied that with the evidence presented, the state could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was murder in the first degree.”

He did not find fault with the Alaska State Troopers’ investigation of the case, and said, as far as the prosecution of the case, “We can always do something better.”

During the trial, the troopers had been criticized by the judge for conducting a “poor” investigation and Card said the prosecutor was negligent in not providing information to the defense in advance of trial.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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