Ore. jury considering death penalty for convicted killer whose sentence was overturned 3 times

BEND, Ore. (AP) — Three juries have sent Randy Lee Guzek to death row for the 1987 murders of an Oregon couple. In each case, the state Supreme Court has overturned the sentence.

A fourth jury will start deliberations Thursday to decide whether Guzek deserves to die by lethal injection or be given life in prison with the possibility of parole when he's 78.

Guzek tearfully addressed Deschutes County jurors before Wednesday's closing arguments, apologizing for the deaths of Rod and Lois Houser. Guzek's drug use and abusive father were consistent themes during the three-week sentencing trial, but the 41-year-old told jurors that he accepted responsibility.

"I blame me for my failures; I am responsible for all of them," he said.

Guzek was 18 when he and two accomplices robbed the Housers, a couple he was familiar with because he briefly dated their niece. Guzek, under the influence of methamphetamine, ordered one of the accomplices to kill Rod Houser, who months earlier had told Guzek to stay away from the girl.

Lois Houser was chased up the staircase and shot three times by Guzek, who then stole the wedding ring off her hand.

Guzek was convicted the following year and sent to death row. The accomplices were spared a potential death sentence by agreeing to testify against Guzek, the alleged ringleader.

Guzek's conviction has stood for 22 years, but the sentence produced a legal saga with three sequels, not including an appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court. It has reportedly cost the state more than $2 million.

Special prosecutor Josh Marquis said in closing arguments that the easy choice would be to stop the appeals and simply keep Guzek behind bars until he's an old man. But that, he said, wouldn't be just.

Marquis, noting Guzek's criminal activity before the murders, said Guzek would be a strong candidate to reoffend, even at 78, and has not shown remorse for his actions.

"Mercy, in order to be bestowed, has to be earned, and Mr. Guzek has not earned it," Marquis said.

Defense attorney Rich Wolf told jurors that it was a "tragedy" for the Housers that the case dragged on for more than 20 years, but it has allowed them to have information jurors did not have in 1988, 1991 and 1997, such as Guzek's history of being a model inmate.

As for Guzek's upbringing, Wolf challenged jurors to find a "more reprehensible, more heinous" father.

"To suggest his father was not a factor is quite disingenuous," he said.

Though relatives of the Housers want Guzek to join the other 33 inmates on Oregon's death row, Wolf told jurors the family has had to revisit the ordeal in four jury trials, and a death sentence would only renew the appeals process.

"Let the punishment begin today," he said.

In his rebuttal, Marquis told jurors that the "Houser family speaks for the Houser family."

"Let's not talk about closure," he fumed. "There is no closure."