May execution set in guard killing caseA South Dakota inmate who fatally beat a prison guard during an escape attempt and told a judge that he would kill again will be executed in May, prosecutors said Thursday.
By: KRISTI EATON , The Associated Press
A South Dakota inmate who fatally beat a prison guard during an escape attempt and told a judge that he would kill again will be executed in May, prosecutors said Thursday.
Eric Robert, 49, will face lethal injection the week of May 13 under an order issued by Second Circuit Judge Bradley Zell.
The exact date will be set by the warden, Attorney General Marty Jackley said.
Zell sentenced Robert last month after he pleaded guilty in the killing of Ronald Johnson on April 12 — Johnson’s 63rd birthday. Investigators said Robert attacked the guard with a pipe and covered his mouth with plastic wrap, then took his uniform.
Robert, who had been serving an 80-year sentence for kidnapping, was stopped as he tried to exit the grounds at the South Dakota State Penitentiary wearing Johnson’s uniform.
Robert waived his right to a trial and asked the judge to sentence him to death, saying his one regret was that he did not kill the officer who stopped him.
He told Zell that he would kill again.
“Brad Zell, if you stood between me and the door of freedom, I would kill you,” Robert told the judge during pre-sentencing.
Zell ruled last month that the death penalty was warranted because Robert’s attack went beyond trying to incapacitate Johnson and that Robert showed “extreme anger to the point of hatred.”
Robert’s attorney, Mark Kadi, said his client would not take steps to delay the execution, but the state Supreme Court will look over the sentence as part of a mandatory process.
Jackley said the state Supreme Court and Gov. Dennis Daugaard have the authority to suspend the execution until they finish reviewing the case.
Two other inmates are also charged in the killing. Rodney Berget, 49, who has pleaded not guilty, also faces the death penalty.
Prosecutors allege he tried to escape with Robert.
His trial is scheduled to start Jan. 30.
A third inmate, Michael J. Nordman, 47, was charged with supplying some of the items used in the killing. Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty for Nordman.
Robert’s sentencing will not affect the other two cases, Jackley said.
Prison officials said they have implemented several changes at the prison since the killing, including adding officers to three areas and installing additional security cameras.