Murder Trial Outcome Unresolved


By Linda Cicoira

It’s a complicated criminal case, but defense lawyer Curtis Brown and Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan both think the solution is simple.

Brown wants Judge W. Revell Lewis III of Accomack Circuit Court to order a new trial for the 11 charges against Roquan Lee’teq “Cake” Rogers in connection with an October 2017 murder-for-hire scheme.

Commonwealth Attorney Spencer Morgan requested that the court deny Brown’s motion and set the matter for sentencing for the three convictions including conspiracy to commit murder of police informant Nathaniel “Nate” Johnson.

Rogers, 19, of Benjamin Banneker Street in Exmore, is being held in the Accomack Jail without bond. He’s also awaiting trial in Northampton Circuit Court for felony drug charges.

Last month, a jury was deadlocked on nine counts including the attempted capital murder of Johnson and his girlfriend in the Boston area of Painter. The jury convicted Rogers of three conspiracy charges but when polled did not unanimously agree on recommended sentences for the crimes.

“After nearly six hours of deliberation, the trial judge without any warning to the defense counsel stated that the jury was struggling and he was going to give them the Allen Charge,” Brown wrote in his brief.

The term, Allen Charge, is used when the judge asks the jury to go back and continue to deliberate and render a decision to avoid a mistrial.

“The defense counsel never heard that the jury had a question or was never told the jury was struggling until the trial judge appeared on the bench … and had trouble understanding how the trial judge knew the jury was struggling,” Brown wrote.

“Nevertheless, the jury finally said they were hung on nine charges and had a verdict on three charges,” Brown continued. “After the jury announced their sentence on the three conspiracy charges,” one of the jurors said he did not agree with the terms. “Immediately thereafter, without requesting the jurors to return to their jury room to see if they come up with a unanimous verdict, the trial judge excused the jurors,” Brown wrote.

Brown also complained, a witness made “prejudicial remarks” about the defendant when he mentioned the Northampton charges in front of the jury.

Morgan asked the court to deny the mistrial request saying there is no evidence that Morgan “sought to elicit the testimony regarding the pending charges against the defendant” and because Judge Lewis promptly told the jurors to disregard that portion of the testimony.

Johnson was given money from the Eastern Shore Drug Task Force to buy cocaine from the defendant’s brother, Akeem Rogers, in Northampton County and from Evron Terrell Strand in Accomack County, according to evidence. Johnson testified against Akeem Rogers and was set to attest to selling cocaine to Strand, who was charged with being the mastermind of the attempted murder plot.

Akeem Rogers’ trial was in October 2017. About two weeks later, Johnson and his 19-year-old friend were walking in Linhaven Circle when they were shot.

Both testified that Roquan Rogers was the shooter. Both said they knew him.

The jury foreperson recommended a total of 17 years in prison for Rogers for the conspiracy charges. A breakdown showed 10 years for conspiracy to commit capital murder for hire, five years for conspiracy to commit capital murder involving a prisoner and two years for conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice.

Another suspect in the murder-for-hire scheme, Keenan Jibrel Berry, 26, of Jermaine Lane in Parksley, was also alleged to have been asked to kill Johnson. Berry wrote to the court in a letter dated Aug. 31 and received Sept 10. He claimed his right to a speedy trial was denied and complained about defense lawyer Patrick Robbins.

“My attorney waited almost five months to even ask me if I wanted a bench trial or jury trial,” Berry wrote. “My speedy trial law was supposed to be over on Sept. 13 … I was also not informed of my postponement until the day before trial, Aug. 29 … you have the right to a speedy trial which say all trials must be complete(d) in five months and two days (for) incarcerated (prisoners and) nine months, two days if free. My constitutional rights state my charges should be dismissed. Also, I was denied the right to appeal for bond. I clearly stated to my lawyer that I wanted an appeal and never heard back. I am innocent and have a right to a bond and a reasonable bond. Please bring this to the judge’s attention …”

Berry’s trial was later set to be contested and heard before a judge on Nov. 1.

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