The murder trial of a blind man was cut short Friday after a judge granted a "stand your ground" motion for immunity and ruled the man acted in self-defense when he shot a drinking buddy in the chest with an assault rifle.
Hours after the ruling, John Wayne Rogers, 40, left the Seminole County Jail, a free man for the first time in nearly two years.
He had killed James T. DeWitt, 34, an overnight guest on March 27, 2012, after a long drinking session in Rogers' home in Geneva, a rural community in eastern Seminole County.
Prosecutors charged Rogers with first-degree premeditated murder, and he was facing a possible sentence of life in prison.
Witnesses gave conflicting accounts of what happened that day, but defense attorneys described the case in simple terms: Rogers is a blind man who was defending himself from an attack in his home.
"He felt like he had no choice but to shoot him, and he did," said Assistant Public Defender Tim Caudill.
Rogers is legally blind, having been injured in a work-related accident while testing a fire-suppression system in 2001, said co-defense counsel Stuart Bryson. Seminole County deputies noted in his arrest report that he walks with a cane, but some neighbors contend he can see.
jurors heard two conflicting sets of facts: What Rogers said happened, that he fired a shot because he was under attack, and what the victim's girlfriend said, that the shooting was unprovoked.
Chris White, chief of operations for the State Attorney's Office in Seminole County, said his office had not yet decided whether to appeal Friday's ruling.
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