Attorneys in the Glen Edward Rogers murder trial delivered their closing arguments Thursday, leaving a jury to decide the fate of the alleged "Cross-Country Killer" who has already been sentenced to death in Florida.
The arguments put an end to a rapid-fire trial that finished in just over a week's time and featured the unusual testimony of Rogers taking the stand in his own defense. Rogers is accused of murdering Sandra Gallagher, a 33-year-old mother of three, whom he had met at a Van Nuys bar in September 1995. Gallagher was later found strangled and burned in her pickup truck nearby.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Pat Dixon in his closing statements attacked Rogers' testimony in which he adamantly denied killing Gallagher. Dixon chided Rogers for trying to present a "good-guy image" to jurors, calling it a ruse.
The prosecutor characterized Rogers as a cocky blowhard who reveled in picking up women by lies and manipulation, even as he disdained them.
Dixon portrayed Gallagher, who had won a small amount in the lottery just before her death, as a woman whose "momentary good fortune turned to tragic misfortune" on the night she met Rogers.
Dixon said that testimony by a coroner showed that Gallagher died of strangulation. He added that although strangulation may take a relatively short period of time, about a minute, Rogers had plenty of time to reflect on what he was doing.
"Neck strangulation," Dixon said, "was premeditation, in and of itself."
Deputy Public Defender Jim Coady challenged the idea that strangulation could be taken to show premeditation on a killer's part. If anything, he said, the killing was an act of passion.
"If you get to the point of doing this, it shows rage. It's not premeditation and it's not first-degree murder."
Coady also prodded jurors to "follow the law" and make their decision on whether the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
He told the panel to take note of the fact that Rogers took the witness stand. "I've got a client who testifies he did not commit this crime," he said.
During the trial the defense had tried to place the blame for Gallagher's death on an associate of Rogers, but a ruling by Superior Court Judge Jacqueline O'Connor kept it from doing so.
Coady said the prosecution's case was made up of "a bunch of different theories" and "possibilities" about the circumstances of Gallagher's death, based on "very thin" evidence.
The district attorney's office is pursuing the death penalty in the Gallagher case, asking the jury to convict Rogers of first-degree murder, which demands proof of premeditation.
Dixon's arguments centered on the accusation that Rogers killed Gallagher as "part of a pattern of premeditated murders" in California, Florida and Louisiana during a six-week stretch in 1995.
In the Florida verdict, which Rogers has appealed, a jury convicted him of the 1995 stabbing murder of Tina Marie Cribbs in a Tampa motel room. He is also accused of fatally stabbing Andy Lou Jiles Sutton in Louisiana.
Previously, Rogers has also been accused of murder in Mississippi, though Dixon did not refer to that case. The defendant has not been charged in the Louisiana and Mississippi killings.
Dixon argued that Gallagher was Rogers' first victim. After that, the prosecutor said, Rogers traveled through the South with "a plan, a common scheme to kill women."
Dixon used a chart to show what he said was the "existence of a plan." The chart listed evidence common to three of the killings in the alleged spree, ranging from the age of the victims--31 to 37--to the fact that all were killed in an enclosed area and were robbed.