Woman found guilty of assaulting law enforcement officer

Published 12:33 am Saturday, January 20, 2018


NATCHEZ — Though she only faced one charge Friday morning in the Adams County Circuit Court, Penny Rogers was found guilty twice.

Rogers, charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, was found guilty originally at approximately 5 p.m. after two days of hearing testimonies, video evidence and listening to the closing statements from the defense and prosecuting lawyers.

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Then, as Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders called the name of each juror and asked what their verdict was, one juror paused.

The juror looked across the courtroom at Rogers, and then she looked down at her hands.

“Undecided,” she said, quietly.

Sanders, unhearing, asked again.

“Undecided,” the juror said, more confidently, with more conviction.

“If you do not have a quorum, you do not have a verdict,” Sanders said, and the jurors filed slowly back into the deliberation room.

On Jan. 21, 2017, Rogers’ father, Julius Rogers, allegedly called 911 requesting assistance for “his daughter who is on drugs.”

Body camera video footage shown at the trial showed Rogers ran to the car and when officer Darrius Woods arrived quickly ran back inside and attempted to close the door before him.

In the video, Rogers eyes Woods as he introduced himself through the screen door.

“I know who you are,” she said.

“It’s going to be okay Penny, talk to me Penny,” Woods said on the body cam video.

Then the video becomes blurry as Woods attempts to handcuff Rogers.

“Penny, don’t bite me, Penny,” Woods said, his voice rising.  “Penny, talk to me, okay? It’s going to be okay.”

The commotion becomes louder and Woods’ voice becomes strained.

“Penny, I don’t want to do this,” he said, lifting his Taser from the holster and aiming it at Rogers.

Woods shot Rogers with a stun gun twice in the course of the incident.

Off camera, Rogers bit two of Woods’ fingers.

Later in the body cam footage, Wood’s is seen pouring hydrogen peroxide on his bleeding, dripping fingers.

But the deliberation of the jury was not whether Rogers had or had not bitten Woods, that much was certain.

The decision before the jurors was whether Rogers had knowingly and purposefully bitten Woods.

“She was acting different that day than other seizures,” Rogers’ mother Vicki Rogers said. “It was worse … She didn’t know who I was. She’d had a bunch of seizures she didn’t know who I was, who her (boyfriend) was, who her own daughter was.”

Witnesses called by the defense testified that Rogers has suffered seizures for the past 10 years.

Each time she has a seizure, Rogers testified, she loses her memory for several hours after the attack.

“When I have a seizure, I can’t remember people, places or things,” Rogers said on the stand.

On the morning of Jan. 21, they said, Rogers had suffered a seizure and lost cognizance in the wake of the episode.

Leon Wesley Jr., who was living with the defendant at the time, said Rogers had cut dozens of cords from her electric appliances and filled the washing machine with forks, spoons, CDs and other items.

“Once she seizes, when she comes down, she’s just not right for two or three hours. What else did you hear? This was the worst she’d ever had,” Rogers’ defense attorney Stanley Merritt said in his closing statements. “She was in a mental crisis, in an excited state, not able to perform any kind of criminal intent. She was acting from pure instinct.”

Were it true, Merritt reasoned, that Rogers was in a diminished mental state at the time of the arrest, she could not be held accountable for her actions.

“Who in their right mind — think about that phrase I use, ‘In their right mind’ — would cut the cords off of electrics?” Merritt said.  “Who in their right mind would put CDs and forks and God knows what else in their washing machine?”

These, he said, were not the act of a healthy person.

But Debra Blackwell, one of two prosecuting attorneys, took a different view of Rogers’ odd actions.

“She wants you to think it’s so bad,” Blackwell said. “But she was turned down for disability. But she didn’t go see a specialist in eight years. She didn’t try to help herself.”

Blackwell raised the issue of the prison time Rogers served in Louisiana for possession of narcotics, and the time Rogers was in drug court for her marijuana use — the marijuana use Rogers admitted to while on the stand.

And she reminded the jurors of the deputies, each of whom said the same thing.

“They have all been trained to identify someone under the influence of drugs, and they all said Penny was under the influence of drugs,” Blackwell said. “You heard Deputy Woods say, ‘She bit my finger I thought she was going to bite it off.’ He said, ‘I prayed to God because I didn’t know if I had AIDS or not.’”

The pictures painted by each lawyer were starkly different, and it was the responsibility of the jury to decide which was the truth.

After another hour of deliberation, the jury returned.

The verdict, again, was guilty.

This time, as Sanders called out the name of the jurors, each responded in the affirmative.

“I thank you on behalf of the court and on behalf of the citizens of Adams County,” Sanders told the jurors. “I thank you for your hard work, and for your verdict.”

Rogers was sentenced to 15 years in the Mississippi Department of Correction with the opportunity for parole in 10 years.