Trial began Wednesday for a Broken Bow, Okla., man accused of manslaughter in the death of a man who suffered a fatal head injury at the Electric Cowboy bar in Texarkana, Ark., in 2015.
Taylor Caz Rogers, 27, faces three to 10 years in prison and the possibility of a fine up to $10,000 if convicted. Rogers is accused of recklessly causing the death of 32-year-old Jon Paul “J.P.” Russell. Rogers, represented by Ashdown, Ark., attorney Mickey Buchanan, claims he was defending his friend, Taylor Rosen.
“Boys, booze and women,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell said in her opening statement Wednesday morning. “Never a good combination.”
Mitchell told the jury bouncers at the Electric Cowboy were successfully handling a verbal confrontation between Russell and Rosen when Rogers threw a punch that caused Russell to fall, hit his head on a table and the concrete floor. Arkansas State Crime Lab Chief Medical Examiner Charles Kokes testified that Russell’s head trauma was consistent with a fall injury.
Russell was taken off life support and died weeks after suffering injury in the bar. Rogers was initially charged with battery but the charges were later amended to manslaughter.
Lennon Davis testified he was working as a bouncer at the Electric Cowboy in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 2015, when fellow bouncer Kris Pardue warned him to keep an eye on Russell and Rosen. Davis said he was within arms reach of both men as the two engaged in a verbal confrontation near the disc jockey booth and dance floor. Davis said Russell and Rosen were shaking hands when Russell pulled Rosen toward him and said, “Don’t walk away from me like a little bitch.”
Under cross examination by Buchanan, Davis testified that Russell had been fired from his job as a bouncer at the Electric Cowboy for not breaking up fights. Davis said Russell was upset with Rosen over a woman.
Pardue testified that he believes Davis had the situation under control when Rogers threw a punch over Davis’ shoulder and that several other bouncers, all clad in shirts and caps identifying them as employees, were paying attention and standing nearby. Pardue said that from where he stood it did appear Russell may have swung at Rosen at some point while Davis, who was very close to both men, said the confrontation was never physical until Rogers became involved.
Megan Kennington testified under questioning from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kristian Young that Russell bought her a single shot during the night and that the two of them talked about their families and “caught up.” Kennington said she and her best girlfriend danced with Rogers and Rosen and met them later that night at IHOP in Texarkana, Ark., for an early morning breakfast. Kennington said she asked Rogers about the confrontation with Russell.
“He said, ‘He got what he deserved,'” Kennington testified.
Texarkana, Ark., Police Department Detective Paul Nall testified that he acquired an arrest warrant for Rogers after interviewing witnesses because he believed there was probable cause to believe Rogers was guilty of battery. Russell was still alive when Rogers was interviewed by Nall at the Bi-State Justice Center on Sept. 3, 2015. In a videotaped interview played for the jury, Rogers claims Russell threw a punch at Rosen and that he thought his friend needed help. Rogers also described the positions of several bouncers he said were close to the confrontation.
Buchanan described Rogers as a friend helping his smaller buddy in a fight with a drunk, larger man while Mitchell described Rogers as recklessly throwing punches in a verbal confrontation which was already being managed by security staff.
Circuit Judge Carlton Jones told the jury to return to court Thursday morning to continue hearing testimony in the case.