Victim’s father hopes for guilty verdict

BRADENTON — Fighting back tears, William White Sr. said he hopes a jury will find former Lakewood Ranch High quarterback Tim Brooks guilty of killing his son.

White stood with family members outside the Manatee County courthouse Monday, the first day of jury selection. He spoke of losing his 19-year-old son, William Jr., on July 13, 2008. Brooks, 19, is charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm in the shooting, and faces life in prison if convicted.

“I hope for him to be found guilty of the murder of my son, William White Jr.,” White said. “It has been a hard 18 months.”

Prosecutors say Brooks shot White during a robbery as White sat in the passenger seat of a car in the 1600 block of 27th Avenue Drive East.

Questioning potential jurors who had seen news coverage pushed jury selection into a second day. But Circuit Judge Debra Riva said she hoped a panel would be picked before noon today, with opening statements then beginning.

Brooks has maintained he was not at the scene of the shooting, and his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Peter Belmont, is expected to present witnesses to corroborate Brooks’ claim.

Relatives of Brooks were also at the courthouse Monday, saying they believe Brooks is innocent. Brooks’ uncle, Thomas Merris, spoke for a half-dozen of Brooks’ family members gathered there, including Brooks’ mother.

“No way he did it. We have no doubt,” Merris said. “The truth will speak for itself.”

Riva read potential jurors a statement outlining the charges against Brooks, which also referenced Brooks’ past as a high school football player.

She also quizzed the panel about their knowledge of the case from media coverage, to which more than a dozen answered they had heard of the case.

Belmont and prosecutor Assistant State Attorney Art Brown then questioned each person who claimed knowledge of the case, and several were released from service.

Another man, Cody Rogers, 19, is also charged with White’s killing as prosecutors say he aided Brooks in the robbery. He is scheduled for a separate trial from Brooks early next year.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reports say White was a passenger in the car of Jacob Cunnien, and the men went to 27th Avenue Drive East to buy marijuana.

On the way out of the neighborhood, witnesses said Cunnien stopped the vehicle and bought a Xanax pill from a man.

While the car was stopped, Cunnien said Rogers approached the driver’s side and pointed a gun at him, while Brooks pointed a gun at White from the passenger side of the car.

Cunnien told authorities he started to drive away when Brooks opened fire, killing White. Cunnien later picked Brooks and Rogers out of a photo lineup, according to sheriff’s reports. He is expected to testify this week, and later at Rogers’ trial.