BRADENTON — After more than eight hours of deliberation in the Manatee County Judicial Center, a jury Friday found 19-year-old Cody Rogers not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old William White Jr.
Rogers could have spent the rest of his life in prison had he been convicted.
The 12-person jury, which began deliberating at 12:20 p.m. and finished shortly before 9 p.m., did find Rogers guilty of the lesser charge of attempted robbery with a firearm of a third person during White’s death on July 13, 2008. Rogers was found guilty of attempted armed robbery of Jakob Cunnien, the driver of the vehicle White was in when he died.
Rogers was immediately placed in handcuffs and was remanded to the Manatee County jail to await sentencing April 26 by Judge Debra Johnes Riva.
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Former Lakewood Ranch High School quarterback Tim Brooks had already been sentenced to life in prison for shooting White during the incident. In this trial, prosecutors told jurors that Rogers helped Brooks by keeping a pistol trained on and robbing Cunnien.
In Florida, a person can be convicted of murder if a jury finds that the defendant engaged in a felony act such as robbery that results in someone’s death.
Rogers’ sentence could be the subject of much speculation for the next few months.
“Typically, a charge involving a firearm can carry a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence,” Rogers’ attorney, Adam Tebrugge, said after the trial.
“Our analysis right now is that it could carry up to 30 years.
“But because of Cody’s age, it is possible that the judge could sentence him as a youthful offender, which carries a maximum penalty of six years. It is unclear until further work is done by everyone.”
About a dozen friends and family of White were visibly upset after the verdict.
The Whites stayed at the courthouse throughout the jury’s deliberations.
“It’s not the verdict we wanted,” said White’s father, Bill. “I know the jury wrestled with the life of a 19-year-old. But we lost our son and nothing that anyone can do can bring him back.”
White’s mother cried when the verdict came in and shook in the arms of her husband.
“Certainly, I have sympathy for the family of William White and do not mean to diminish their loss,” said Tebrugge, who teamed with co-counsel Derek Byrd and Scarlett Guy.
“However, I am also very happy for Cody Rogers and his family. If he had been convicted, it would have been a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.”
Cody’s mother, father and sister were present in the courtroom, as well as friends.
“He was very relieved,” Tebrugge said. “He knew what he was facing. As you saw, he was out on bond so he walked into that courtroom knowing what he faced. I think it shows something about the young man. He was ready to face responsibility for whatever the jury verdict would be.”
The state called six witnesses and all of them testified Rogers came upon the scene at the end of the incident.
Byrd played upon this fact in his closing arguments.
On the way out of the courtroom, an ecstatic Rogers turned to the roughly 25 friends and family sitting on one side of the courtroom.
“I love you all,” he yelled.
— Herald Staff Writer Robert Napper contributed to his report.