A former Kern County sheriff's deputy on death row for killing two prostitutes will come back to Bakersfield for a hearing that could lead to his death penalty being reduced to life without parole.
The hearing centers on the trial of David Keith Rogers who was convicted of murdering two prostitutes in 1986 and 1987. The second killing was of a 15-year-old girl who was pregnant.
The California Supreme Court ordered the hearing for Rogers, now 62, in July.
The hearing is November 20 and will determine when the parties may be ready to conduct the evidentiary hearing.
At issue is whether a third prostitute, who testified in the penalty phase of Rogers trail, was telling the truth when she said Rogers attacked her in 1986, according to H.A. Kutchins, a Berkeley attorney representing Rogers on appeal.
The California Supreme Court determined it was important to examine her role in Rogers case because it was later learned that another person might have been responsible for attacking her, Kutchins said.
The questions are about her credibility, whether law enforcement knew another person may have attacked her and whether the defense attorney could have done a better job in challenging her testimony.
The issue is critical because the trial judge, the late Gerald K. Davis, found her testimony compelling in his decision to uphold the jury's recommendation of death for Rogers.
Rogers was convicted of the shooting deaths of Janine Marie Benintende, 20, in 1986, and Tracie Clark, 15, a year later.
A crime lab expert discovered that both women were killed by bullets issued to sheriff's deputies.
Rogers was fired in 1983 for abusing a prostitute, but that case against him was dropped when she disappeared.
The prostitute who testified in the penalty phase of his trial described an attack that was similar to the way another man was assaulting prostitutes in 1986. That man, Michael Ratzlaff, was convicted of a similar attack, Kutchins said.
Kutchins said he talked to Rogers a couple months ago. He said Rogers has been on death row in San Quentin for 20 years and that has been "a grinding and debilitating experience" for him.