Judge postpones mansalaughter sentencing

By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor

A district judge on Monday postponed the sentencing of a Clovis man convicted of voluntary manslaughter, saying he needed a diagnostic evaluation of the defendant before making his decision.

District Judge Joe Parker said he would like to learn specific anger issues that affect James Rogers, 43, of Clovis.

A Curry County jury convicted Rogers in September of shooting and killing David Wilt, 47, on Sept. 9, 2003, in a mutual friend’s home at 4220 N. Prince Street.

Rogers’ attorney, Arthur Bustos of Las Vegas, N.M., requested the diagnostic evaluation. Court officials said the pre-sentence report shows a probation officer requested the maximum nine-year incarceration for Rogers.

Bustos and Parker said they had problems with the pre-sentence report, one being the fact the probation officer interviewed Rogers over the telephone and not in person because Rogers was incarcerated in the Dickens County jail.

A pre-sentence report is compiled from interviews with the victim’s family and the defendant. A 60-day diagnostic evaluation is typically done for repeat and sexual offenders, court officials said. The evaluation is a psychological analysis, and is likely to reveal any anger or mental issues a defendant may have.

After Rogers’ conviction, Bustos said he wanted the pre-sentence report rather than the diagnostic evaluation.
District Attorney Matt Chandler said Bustos asked the judge for the diagnostic only after the pre-sentence report requested the maximum incarceration. Bustos said he requested the diagnostic because he didn’t understand the probation officer’s request for the maximum sentence, and the fact his client wasn’t interviewed in person.

Wilt’s family, including Wilt’s oldest sister, Dr. Leslie Rebtoy of Westville, Okla., was angered at the delay in sentencing.
“He is exactly what is wrong with society at this moment. He used a gun to end an argument, and we have far too much of that,” she said. “He needs to be made an example of. Unfortunately he’s not going to be made a good example, because even nine years — a human life is worth more than nine years.”

Former District Attorney Brett Carter said in September that Wilt and Rogers got into a heated argument hours before the shooting because Wilt had broken the locks on the mutual friend’s door. Rogers was at the home fixing the locks and asked Wilt not to show up again at the home, which led to the argument, Carter said.

When Wilt returned to the home to pick up his cell phone, Rogers shot him, officials said. Carter said Rogers testified he shot Wilt in self defense after the victim threatened him and appeared to be reaching for a weapon.