Attorney says felon ‘adjusted’

Michael Rogers said his client, George Lazorisak, writes to him every year around Christmas and has adjusted well to prison life.

By: Mae Rhine
   It comes as no surprise to the attorney of convicted murderer George Lazorisak that the man has finally confessed nearly 20 years later.
   Attorney Michael Rogers defended the former New Hope man who was convicted March 20, 1987, of the Jan. 16, 1986, shooting death of Charles Douglas Weeks, 47, a Lambertville florist and chef.
   Mr. Lazorisak has maintained his innocence up until now. As he was whisked from the Flemington Courthouse May 21, 1987, after being sentenced to 30 years, he said, "I’m innocent, and I’m not giving up."
   In 1994, he unsuccessfully tried to convince Centurion Ministries to take his case and prove he was wrongfully convicted.
   Then, last week, he sent an "open letter to Lambertville," addressed to The Beacon, confessing to the crime and offering a public apology.
   "I’m not surprised he said this publicly although he never said it to me," said Mr. Rogers on Dec. 29 upon hearing of Mr. Lazorisak’s letter to The Beacon. "This time every year, he sends me a letter, thanking me for saving his life and saying how he’s changed."
   Upon hearing the contents of the letter, Mr. Rogers added, ""It’s a very moving letter. He has come to terms with his behavior."
   He recalled he and then-Hunterdon County Prosecutor Sharon Ransavage agreed to work together to not push the jury for the death penalty. But at the time, which was never revealed until now, he said, Mr. Lazorisak "was not interested" in putting up a defense against the death penalty.
   Mr. Rogers said Mr. Lazorisak was willing to die: "Oh, yeah. Absolutely."
   He added, "It’s a credit to the system the jury didn’t" invoke the death penalty.
   Now his former client thanks him every year for that.
   "He writes a lot in prison," said Mr. Rogers, a resident of Holland Township, N.J., and a partner in the Somerville, N.J., law firm of McDonald and Rogers. "He certainly did not have those skills, I can assure you, when he was in his legal difficulties. I just hear from George every year, in sort of a heartfelt way; nice mature communication with no bitterness about his plight."
   Of his prison life, his former client "says he gets along fine."
   Mr. Rogers added, "Prison life, really, if in for a lengthy time, prison life is another society in of itself. There are limits to that society. You can’t get out. There are rules you have to follow that others don’t, but it’s a society you have to adjust to, and George has adjusted to it rather well."
   Mr. Rogers is convinced Mr. Lazorisak was sincere in his confession and public apology.
   "I was his attorney so I try not to personalize things, but if I look at this as a professional in criminal justice, it’s an indication this person came to terms with his behavior and, hopefully, will be an excellent candidate for parole so he’ll be out as a member of society after being away from so long. I’m encouraged to hear things like this so his adjustment will be much better now that he has come to terms with what he did. I feel much better about the public safety."
   When asked if he felt Mr. Lazorisak was paving the way for a parole hearing down the road, Mr. Rogers was insistent Mr. Lazorisak was sincere.
   "No, I don’t, and I’ll tell you why," he said. "He is going to be eligible whether or not" he confessed.
   He explained, "The law was much different 20 years ago than it is today. They can’t deny it (his parole after 30 years)."
   He added, "I’ve seen this coming in his communication with me over the past 10 years. It’s very obvious he has matured greatly, lost his bitterness about his plight and is making a real effort."
   But "if he didn’t say anything, it would still be the same; he would still be eligible for parole at the same time."