Victim identifies man charged in Nov. street shooting, robbery

October 07, 1999|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Sitting in his wheelchair a few feet from jurors yesterday, James Bransford Pace pointed twice to the man he says participated in a robbery and shooting in November that left the Broadway dancer paralyzed from the chest down.

Nearly a year after the shooting ended his dancing career, Pace testified for about two hours in Baltimore Circuit Court. While his sister, Linda Jett, dabbed away tears, Pace showed little emotion as he recalled being accosted and shot Nov. 27 at Saratoga and St. Paul streets while walking back to his hotel.

Pace, 29, who was wounded while in town to perform in "Jolson: The Musical," told jurors that John C. Rogers, 31, of the 600 block of Pitcher St. stole his Kenneth Cole watch and rifled his backpack after another man shot him once in the neck.

Assistant State's Attorney Sylvester Cox asked him whether he could identify the man who took his watch. "Yes," Pace replied. "Uh, at the end of the table. This man right here." His voice cracked as he pointed at Rogers.

Because of his physical limitations, Pace testified from his wheelchair next to the trial table, three chairs from Rogers, who authorities acknowledge was not the gunman. The shooter is being sought, and the gun has not been found.

Throughout his testimony, Pace rarely looked at Rogers, who is charged with armed robbery and conspiracy to commit murder. Occasionally, Rogers glanced at Pace.

Assistant Public Defender Jeffrey Gilleran tried to convince jurors that prosecutors have the wrong man. Gilleran asked Pace about statements he made to police days after the shooting, in which he said the second man was "5 feet 6 inches tall to 5 feet 9 inches." Rogers is at least 6 feet tall, Gilleran said.

He also said Pace told detectives in December that the second man had no distinct features. Tuesday, at a motions hearing, Pace said he remembered the shape of his face and nose and the largeness of his eyes.

When Pace finished testifying, he quietly left the courtroom with Jett and her fiance, Issam Haddad. The three plan to return home to Atlanta today.

Fingerprints on items recovered at the scene did not match Rogers' prints, Cox and Gilleran said during opening statements.

The state also called Officer Sherri Parker-Notargiacomo, the first officer to reach Pace, as a witness, and is expected to rest today after calling two more witnesses.

Gilleran said he isn't sure he will call witnesses.

The trial is being heard before Judge Paul A. Smith.

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