A blind former U.S. Marine with a history of violence has been cleared on murder charges after a Florida judge granted him immunity from prosecution under the state’s “stand your ground” law.
Circuit Judge John Galluzzo approved John Wayne Rogers’ motion for immunity a day after he testified in court about the March 2012 fatal shooting of James DeWitt -- and on the same day the jury in the case was scheduled to begin deliberating on the former serviceman’s fate, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
"He felt like he had no choice but to shoot him, and he did," Assistant Public Defender Tim Caudill said.
“Self defense, I guess, he claims,” Daniel Miller, a friend of DeWitt’s, told MyFoxOrlando of Rogers, who has been jailed for two years on premeditated murder charges in the run-up to the trial.
“On the other hand, you know you can't just take a life like that."
According to the Sentinel, Rogers, 40, told the jury he shot DeWitt at point-blank range with an assault rifle after his friend balked at his request he leave his Seminole County home following a night of drinking.
Rogers reportedly said DeWitt, 34, eventually rushed him after he asked him -- and his girlfriend, Christina Ann Robertson -- to depart a second time at gunpoint.
But Robertson reportedly disputed Rogers' account, telling authorities the duo had been “play fighting” -- as they were wont to do -- and Rogers shot DeWitt without ample reason.
The Sentinel cites court documents in writing the former Marine, who reportedly lost his sight in a work-related accident thirteen years ago, has a history of violence that includes firing 15 rounds from a handgun at his former roommate and cousin in 2010 after a different and unrelated night of drinking.
Rogers also reportedly spent more than two months in a Seminole County jail after he earned a domestic violence charge for pushing and punching a woman in 2011.
Florida's "stand your ground" law, which permits residents to employ deadly force if they fear imminent danger, gained notoriety after Sanford, Fla., resident George Zimmerman fatally shot an unarmed 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin in February 2012. A jury later acquitted Zimmerman after his attorneys argued he'd acted in self defense.