Attorneys in Victor Rodgers’ murder trial continued to chip away Thursday at statements by witnesses to the fatal shooting of Kerry Burns, 27, of Sacramento, on an Arden Arcade area street in May 2012.
It’s the second murder trial in Sacramento Superior Court for Rodgers after a jury in January could not reach a verdict after nearly two weeks of deliberation.
Questioning on Thursday focused on the moments immediately before the shooting on Wyda Way and a phone call that police said Rodgers’ younger brother, Malik, made to Rodgers signaling him that Burns was heading home. Prosecutors say the Rodgers brothers were setting up Burns for an ambush.
Prosecutors say Victor Rodgers killed Burns, a partner in Rodgers’ check-kiting operation, because Rodgers believed he was getting cut out of cash from the scheme. Rodgers’ attorney, Michael Long, argued that a third partner shot and killed Burns on May 22, 2012, minutes after Burns arrived at the doorstep of his mother’s Wyda Way home after a short trip to a nearby store.
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Jurors on Thursday had been cautioned by Superior Court Judge Robert Twiss to make what they would of witnesses’ courtroom testimony and interviews with investigators. Twiss noted the “enormous volume of prior inconsistent statements” by Malik Rodgers to detectives and in court regarding the incident.
Malik’s testimony last week and earlier this week was interspersed with videotaped station house statements in the days after the shooting when police considered him a suspect in Burns’ killing.
Malik Rodgers was jailed for a time in the case, but he accepted a deal as an accessory after the fact in exchange for his testimony.
An often drowsy Malik Rodgers had contradicted statements he made earlier to police, was unable to recall conversations and questions with investigators, and struggled to answer questions from attorneys in his days on the witness stand.
At one point, he appeared to fall asleep on the stand as a recorded interview played. On an earlier occasion, outside the presence of the jury, Malik was upbraided by Twiss, who demanded he “sit up straight” and answer attorneys’ questions, warning him that lying under oath was perjury and a felony offense.
On Thursday, jurors heard testimony from Andre Jones, who, with twin brother Andrew, was with Malik Rodgers outside the Bradford Pointe apartment homes on Wyda when the shots were fired.
In a video interview with detectives recorded May 30, 2012, that was played for the jury, Andre denied hearing Malik phone Victor Rodgers, saying he did not know who gave Malik the phone that prosecutors say he used to alert Victor. Andre didn’t see the shooter, he said, but he, Andrew and Malik ran for a nearby gate when they heard the gunshots. Andre scaled two fences to get out of harm’s way, he said.
But the hours dragged on and investigators began to press harder. At one point, they asked Andre if he understood that a long prison term was waiting if he was found guilty of being an accessory.
On the stand, he said he recalled lying to police in the interview room about the phone call. “I was scared to snitch,” he said.
On the video, the detectives assured Andre that by talking to law enforcement, he was not being a snitch – a potential death sentence on the street.
Defense attorney Long paused the recording. “Are you worried about your future?” Long asked.
“I’m snitching,” Andre Jones said. “My future’s already over.”