After spending most of the last 10 years behind bars on charges she attacked her ex-husband and his new wife with a sledgehammer in their Lincolnshire home, Sandra Rogers has a chance to try and prove her innocence starting today.
A court last year threw out Rogers' 2004 guilty plea to attempted murder that resulted in a 30-year sentence, paving the way for the jury trial the Mundelein woman previously passed up.
Prosecutors say nothing has changed in the case since 2004, and contend Rogers and then-17-year-old accomplice Jonathon McMeekin were behind the attack on Rick Rogers and his new wife, Angela Gloria. Rogers and Gloria survived the attack despite being pummeled in the early morning hours of May 19, 2003.
But defense attorney Gillian Gosch will argue it was Sandra Rogers' daughter, Robin, who wanted her father dead and persuaded an ex-boyfriend to help her with the attempted murder.
The trial starts with jury selection in front of Lake County Judge John Phillips.
The twisted tale began in 2003 after a bitter custody battle sent Robin Rogers, then 14, to live with her father in Lincolnshire, prosecutors said.
Gosch said Robin, who was dating McMeekin at the time, was enraged that she was forced to live with her father. The teenager started writing in her journal that she wanted her father killed, according to previous court filings by Gosch.
The defense lawyer also alleges that unauthorized taped phone conversations exist in which Robin Rogers asks an unidentified former boyfriend to kill her father.
However, prosecutors say they expect McMeekin to testify that Sandra Rogers was with him during the attack.
"He is still saying Sandra Rogers swung the sledgehammer and hit Rick Rogers with it," assistant Lake County State's Attorney Rod Drobinski said.
Despite McMeekin's claims, Sandra Rogers, now 56, has long maintained her innocence, even after the 2004 plea bargain that sent her to prison.
That deal was thrown out last year and Rogers was awarded a new trial after Phillips ruled she was tricked into admitting her role in the crime.
Phillips said Sandra Rogers used a Lake County corrections officer to pass a note to McMeekin that said, "How are you and I love you." The corrections officer was prepared to testify that Sandra Rogers said, "I'm sorry," which could have been construed as an admission of guilt by a jury.
An investigator working for the prosecution determined the truth of the message, but that information was never passed on to Sandra Rogers' defense in 2003.
Because prosecutors had a legal duty to share that information with the defense, Phillips threw out her previous plea and awarded Rogers a trial.
The case has been challenging for prosecutors and defense attorneys alike.
Gosch has said in court she is "only one person" leading the defense.
Prosecutor Danielle Pascucci said, "This is an extremely difficult case due to the length of time that has passed, along with the facts and circumstances."
More than 30 witnesses are on the list to be called, and both sides expect the case will take 7 to 10 days to conclude.