BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Kern County District Attorney’s office will retry the penalty phase of David Keith Rogers’ murder trial after the state Supreme Court overturned the former deputy’s death sentence two years ago.
Prosecutor Eric Smith said in court Wednesday he’s prepared to go forward with retrying the penalty phase and Judge John W. Lua confirmed the retrial for June 7 but noted a courtroom may not become available until August.
California Supreme Court justices let Rogers’ 1988 murder convictions stand, meaning he would serve life without parole if prosecutors are unsuccessful in securing the death penalty a second time.
Rogers, now 74, was transported but did not appear in court because he was taken to Kern Medical for a reason Lua did not disclose. The judge said Rogers is expected to appear at future hearings.
He was convicted of two counts of murder in the deaths of Janine Benintende, 20, and Tracie Clark, 15. Benintende was killed in early 1986 and Clark a year later.
Rogers was sentenced to death and has been spent the intervening years housed at San Quentin State Prison.
In 2019, the California Supreme Court overturned Rogers’ death penalty after determining a prosecution witness falsely testified he had sexually assaulted her. The prosecution used the woman’s testimony during its closing argument in the penalty phase.
Both Benintende and Clark worked as prostitutes at the time of their deaths. Their bodies were found in the Arvin-Edison Canal, and both had been shot multiple times with bullets from a .38-caliber gun.
The bullets, tire tracks, shoe prints, and eyewitness testimony led to Rogers being identified as a suspect, and he admitted to killing Clark but denied involvement in Benintende’s death when confronted by detectives. His defense at trial argued he was mentally disturbed as a result of physical and sexual abuse he suffered as a child.