Supreme Court orders new competency hearing for Mark Rogers

State partially rules in favor of Mark Rogers

The State Supreme Court has ruled partially in favor of a 66-year-old Elyria, Ohio, man who appealed his conviction for sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy in Minot in 2014.

Mark Allen Rogers is serving a 12-year prison sentence for Class A felony gross sexual imposition.

His defense attorney had argued that Rogers should get a new trial because North Central District Court Judge Stacy Louser created a structural error and violated his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial when she closed a competency hearing at his request. The Supreme Court has sent the case back to Louser to hold a new competency hearing for Rogers.

“… We do not remand for a new hearing on Rogers’ present competency,” wrote the justices in their decision. “… A determination of Rogers’ current competency would not inform the court whether he was indeed competent in March of 2017 at the closed competency hearing and subsequent change of plea. Thus, the district court must hold a competency hearing examining the original evaluation of Rogers’ fitness to proceed as of March 12, 2017, conducted by Dr. Lisota from the North Dakota State Hospital. The hearing must be open to the public, unless the Waller factors are reviewed by the court to determine what portions of the hearing, if any, should be closed. If the new competency hearing indicates Rogers was not competent to proceed to trial or guilty plea, the criminal judgment must be vacated and the proceedings suspended under (the century code). If, however, a new competency hearing results in a finding of competency, disturbing the criminal judgment would be a windfall for Rogers and not in the public interest.”

The Supreme Court wrote in its ruling that the remedy might appear to be “form over substance” but a public court hearing “preserves both the fact and appearance of fair and impartial justice.”

Rogers had asked Louser to close the competency hearing because he was afraid personal details would be discussed.

After he pleaded guilty, his new defense lawyer, Kiara Kraus-Parr, filed an appeal and argued that Louser should have first held a hearing before closing the courtroom. Kraus-Parr argued that Louser should have considered reasonable alternatives to closing the courtroom and made findings adequate to support closing the hearing.

The Supreme Court also ruled that Louser properly ordered Rogers to pay restitution to Ward County of $2,674.90, the cost of extraditing him back to Minot from Thailand in 2016. Rogers had fled to Thailand after he was initially charged.