Trial begins for man accused in shooting of dancer in robbery; Jury chosen after judge rules on 2 defense motions


The trial of a man accused in a November robbery and shooting that left a ballet dancer paralyzed from the chest down began yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court with the presiding judge deciding on two defense motions.

John C. Rogers, 31, of the 600 block of Pitcher St. is charged with armed robbery and conspiracy to commit murder the day after Thanksgiving.

James Branford Pace, 29, of New York, the victim, was in Baltimore to perform in the American premiere of "Jolson: The Musical." He was accosted at Saratoga and St. Paul streets while walking to his hotel, shot in the neck and robbed.

Yesterday's court session was spent on three motions submitted by Assistant Public Defender Jeffrey Gilleran to Judge Paul A. Smith.

In one, Gilleran asked Smith to suppress a photo array bearing Rogers' picture that detectives showed Pace in the hospital. Smith denied the motion.

Another asked that a statement by Rogers, in which nothing about the alleged robbery and shooting was said, not be allowed. Smith granted that motion.

The third sought suppression of an in-court identification of the defendant by Pace. Smith said he would rule after the state presents its case.

Several hours were taken to hear evidence on the motions, but Smith ruled in less than five minutes. A jury was then impaneled.

During the session, Pace, in a wheelchair and leaning against the prosecution table, testified that his state of mind was clear when detectives showed him the photographs. "I wasn't emotionally out of control," he said. "I was just very aware of what was happening around me."

As he looked at photos, he said: "Actually, this is the one I saw and pretty much recognized the guy right off. This looks like the guy that was assisting the guy that actually shot me."

Pace testified that he identified Rogers by the shape of his face and nose and the largeness of his eyes.

The trial is to resume today and expected to last two days.

Pub Date: 10/06/99

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