A jury in the trial of one of three suspects in a robbery of a Wichita convenience store last year will be allowed to see a video that shows another robbery suspect being shot to death by the store clerk, a judge ruled Tuesday.
District Judge William Woolley issued the ruling at the outset of the trial of Christopher C. Rollins, 19, who is charged with taking part in the Nov. 22 robbery at the KC Gas & Groceries store at 1161 N. Broadway.
Wichita police said one of the robbers, Giorgio J. Rock, 16, was shot by the clerk and later died at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis. Rollins and another suspect, Nigel Finlinson, were charged with aggravated robbery for taking part in the hold-up. Finlinson, 19, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years and 8 months in prison.
Lawyers in the case said the store’s surveillance camera wasn’t working when the store was robbed a week before the shooting, prompting an upgrade of the system that recorded the video that will be shown to the jury. Police said Rock was responsible for both hold-ups.
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Before ruling that the jury could see the video, Woolley had to decided whether its “probative value” would outweigh the “prejudicial effect” of allowing jurors to see it.
Rollins’ lawyer, Mark Rudy, argued that the video and all references to the fact that one of the robbers had been killed was inflammatory and prejudicial.
“It’s an unnecessary element that the state doesn’t have to prove,” he said.
Prosecutor Tyler Roush argued that the video was an integral part of the state’s case.
“It’s an aggravated robbery; it is what it is,” he said. “They went into the store with a gun and a young man died as a result. The probative value in the actual video of the robbery is enormous…. A jury is entitled to see all the facts and circumstances.”
Roush said shielding the jury from the fact that Rock died would be impractical when all the witnesses – both law enforcement and civilians – were aware of his death. Woolley agreed.
“I don’t see how, procedurally, the death can be kept out,” he said.
Although prosecutors claim that Rollins acted as a look-out in the robbery, Rudy said his client stayed outside the store and appeared to be paying no attention to what was going on inside.
“If he was a lookout, he’s the worst lookout in the history of lookouts,” he said.
Rudy said Finlinson, who has been serving his sentence at the El Dorado Correctional Facility, would testify on Rollins’ behalf.
Lawyers are expected to deliver opening statements in the case on Wednesday.