Jury out in trial over shooting of dancer; Friend weakens victim's testimony


After hearing testimony that contradicted the state's star witness against a man charged in the shooting of New York ballet dancer Bransford Pace, jurors went home last night without rendering a verdict.

They are expected to resume deliberations today before Baltimore Circuit Judge Alfred Nance. Judge Paul A. Smith, who has presided so far, went on vacation today.

John C. Rogers, 31, of the 600 block of Pitcher St., is on trial, accused of participating in a robbery in November that led to a shooting that left Pace, 29, paralyzed from the chest down.

Events in the courtroom featured many twists yesterday. The biggest surprise occurred when prosecution witness Derek Isetti cast doubt on Pace's testimony, saying that Pace told him on Monday that he wasn't sure whether Rogers participated in the robbery. Pace and the 24-year-old Isetti are friends who were in Baltimore last fall to perform in "Jolson: The Musical" at the Lyric Theatre.

Of his conversation with Pace at a downtown cafe, Isetti said: "I asked him if he could remember the accomplice. [He replied] -- it has been over a year and to tell you the truth I'm not sure."

Isetti said he pressed Pace, asking whether he would know the accomplice if the man walked right in front of him. Isetti said Pace replied, "I don't know."

Isetti's testimony one day after Pace twice pointed to Rogers and identified him as the man who assisted the gunman.

Pace had told jurors he had no doubt that Rogers was the man who stole his Kenneth Cole watch last year as he lay wounded in the street. Contacted at his Atlanta home last night, Pace said he isn't allowed to comment on the case until after jurors reach a verdict.

Assistant State's Attorney Sylvester Cox and Public Defender Jeffrey Gilleran declined tocomment on Isetti's testimony.

Earlier in the day, the trial was delayed by nearly an hour as court officials tracked Pace at the airport to ask him about remarks he made on a local television station Wednesday. The comments -- in which Pace is alleged to have said he was "pretty sure" about identifying Rogers -- were brought to Gilleran's attention by Rogers' sister.

Pace was at Baltimore-Washington International Airport preparing to fly home to Atlanta with his sister Linda Jett and her fiance, Issam Haddad, when Smith arranged a conference call at the airport to discuss his comments to the media. The call did not go through, however, because Gilleran could not be reached to participate.

At 11: 55 a.m. yesterday, jurors were taken into the courtroom. They were questioned one at a time by Smith because juror Daniel Wersocki had held up an article about the case in The Sun to colleagues in the jury room. Wersocki, an electrician, was dismissed. Gilleran said he was satisfied with the judge's handling of that situation but did not discount the possibility of asking for a mistrial.

Rogers' mother, Sandra Rogers, has attended the trial since it began Tuesday, often holding a paperback copy of the New Testament and sitting with the defendant's 3-year-old son, Jonathan. She has steadfastly maintained her son's innocence, arguing mistaken identity.

On the night of the shooting, she said, the defendant was at home with the mother of three of his five children.

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