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Prison guard killer seeks hearing to avoid execution

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Prison guard killer seeks hearing to avoid execution
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- A man on death row in South Dakota has asked for a new sentencing hearing so he can show that a new relationship with his son and grandchildren provides a reason for him not to be executed, court documents show.

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Lawyers for Rodney Berget filed documents last week requesting a new sentencing hearing, the media reported Tuesday. Berget was sentenced to death for killing prison guard Ronald "RJ" Johnson in April 2011. The state Supreme Court overturned Berget's death sentence, ruling that the circuit judge improperly considered a statement Berget made to a psychiatrist.

Berget now wants a completely new hearing in front of a jury. According to the documents, Berget's 31-year-old son only found out who his real father is as an adult, and the death-row inmate has now established a "meaningful relationship" with his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said Berget already waived his right to be sentenced by a jury.

"If family and fatherhood was such a meaningful consideration to Berget, it should have deterred him from robbing RJ Johnson's son and daughter of their father," Jackley wrote in the response. "Where Berget sees redemptive mitigation evidence in this new-found-son scenario, the state sees only further aggravating evidence of selfishness and failure to accept his responsibilities in life."

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