PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Three times Dayton Leroy Rogers has been sentenced to death, and three times his sentence has been overturned.
Rogers, one of Oregon’s most prolific serial killers, returned to an Oregon City courtroom Tuesday to yet again face jurors who could send him to death row. Though that is an option, the past two governors have placed a moratorium on executions, and the state has not executed anyone since 1997.
Rogers, 62, tortured and killed several women in the 1980s, binding some of them and stabbing them repeatedly. The former lawn-mower repairman, dubbed the Molalla Forest Killer because the bodies were discovered in a forest in the small town of Molalla, was known for his brutality.
Rogers was convicted of six killings in 1989, and each of three juries has sentenced him to death. Rogers also was tied to the slaying of a woman identified in 2013 and sentenced to life in prison for the stabbing death of a woman outside a Portland restaurant in 1987.
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The state Supreme Court struck down Rogers’ death sentences in 1992, 2000 and 2012. The first time was to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Oregon’s death penalty law.
In 2000, the Oregon high court ruled that the jury incorrectly considered only the options of death and life in prison with the possibility of parole. There should have been a third choice: life without the chance of parole.
In 2012, the justices said jury selection was done improperly and the judge incorrectly allowed evidence of Rogers’ gay experiences as a teenager.
His new sentencing trial is expected to last three weeks. Under Oregon law, a conviction for aggravated murder requires a separate sentencing trial with jurors deciding whether or not to impose a death sentence.
Though it is rare to have four separate sentencing trials, it’s not unprecedented.
Randy Lee Guzek was sentenced to death three times for killing a central Oregon couple in 1987, and each time the penalty was overturned. A jury imposed it for a fourth time in 2010, and it has stuck.
Rogers’ first known attack was at age 18 in 1972, when he stabbed a 15-year-old Eugene girl after taking her to a wooded area to have sex. In 1973, after striking two girls with a soda bottle, he was sent to the state mental hospital. After his release in 1974, Rogers’ crimes continued for more than a decade.
At his 2006 sentencing trial, Rogers argued that he was changed a man after nearly two decades in prison.
“There is never a day that I don’t struggle from the very core of my heart and soul over the despicable acts I’ve committed,” Rogers said.