A jury on Monday sentenced Oregon’s ‘Molalla Forest Killer’ -- who had tortured and murdered eight women -- to death for the fourth time, an ultimately symbolic decision in a state that has not executed anyone in nearly 20 years.
Dayton Leroy Rogers, 62, who killed eight women in the 1980s, had previously been sentenced to death three times for his crimes, and each time the penalty was overturned on legal grounds. The jury’s new verdict comes despite a moratorium on executions imposed by the past two governors.
Rogers apologised in court on Friday. He told jurors the word “sorry” was inadequate but he was sorry for taking “eight precious lives”.
Prosecutors said Rogers, a former lawn-mower repairman, drove to Portland to solicit prostitutes, plied them with alcohol and took them to remote locations where he tied them up and tortured them. He was dubbed the ‘Molalla Forest Killer’ because the bodies were discovered in a forest in the small town of Molalla.
Prosecutor Bryan Brock said Rogers should get the death penalty because his acts were heinous and deliberate. He said Rogers carefully planned his attacks and was driven by sexual gratification from inflicting pain.
“Why go through this again?” he said after the jury returned its decision. “Because it’s that important. Nobody in the history of Oregon has warranted the death penalty more than Mr Rogers and to deny him what he has justly earned would be a greater injustice.”
Defense attorney Richard Wolf has said Rogers would waive his right to an appeal if he got a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
During Rogers’ most recent sentencing trial in Clackamas County Circuit court, Wolf said sending Rogers to prison for life would give a resolution to victims’ families and avoid the costs of further legal proceedings.
If Rogers is sentenced to death, various appeals could take up another 30 years, cost about $3 million and continue to drag families into court, Wolf said.
The attorney also argued that Rogers’ traumatic childhood -- including sexual and physical abuse -- and the brain damage he suffered should be considered as mitigating evidence.
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 and killing a woman outside a Portland restaurant in 1987.
The state Supreme Court struck down Rogers’ death sentences in 1992, 2000 and 2012. The first time was to comply with a US Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Oregon’s death penalty law.