Court upholds Warren County manslaughter sentence|[03/20/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2008

From staff and AP reports

The state Court of Appeals has upheld Reginald Rogers’ manslaughter conviction in a 2004 lounge shooting on Washington Street in downtown Vicksburg but threw out two aggravated assault counts.

Rogers was convicted in 2007 of manslaughter in the shooting death of Danny Woodland and aggravated assault for wounding two others.

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Rogers was sentenced to 20 years for manslaughter. He was sentenced to 10 years on one aggravated assault count and five years on the second.

Woodland was shot several times on Aug. 2, 2004, in the crowded Hill Top Lounge.

Prosecutors said the evidence showed Woodland was down and posed no threat as Rogers stood over him and shot him in the head.

According to the court record, there was no disagreement that Woodland had fired first, shooting Rogers through the chest as a dispute over a girlfriend escalated.

The defense had argued all the shots Rogers fired — including any that may have struck others — were in self-defense because Woodland shot first. On appeal, Rogers argued that he did not intentionally shoot the two bystanders.

Appeals Judge Larry E. Roberts, writing Tuesday for the court, said the court record showed Rogers and Woodland had confrontations in the bar, but Woodland had walked away. “However, without provocation, Woodland turned toward Rogers, drew his pistol, and shot Rogers in the chest. There can be no doubt that, at that point, Rogers had a lawful right to act in self-defense and use deadly force to repel his attacker,” Roberts said.

Roberts said the two bystanders were hit “with errant bullets from Rogers’ pistol when Rogers initially returned fire” at Woodland.

“Therefore, as a matter of law, Rogers had no unlawful intent to cause bodily injury” to the bystanders, Roberts said.

“At that moment in the conflict, Rogers was attempting to preserve his own life,” Roberts said.

In a dissent, Appeals Judge Joseph Lee said the aggravated assault convictions should stand.

“Rogers chose to confront Woodland in a crowded bar. The majority takes the position that Rogers was acting in self-defense because Woodland fired his weapon first. I disagree. Rogers and Woodland were intent on doing battle with total disregard for the welfare of innocent bystanders.

Court of Appeals Decision