Inmate asks for no delay to get his executionA man sentenced to death for killing a South Dakota prison guard does not want the state Supreme Court to delay his execution, the man’s attorney said in a court brief filed Wednesday.
By: KRISTI EATON, The Associated Press
A man sentenced to death for killing a South Dakota prison guard does not want the state Supreme Court to delay his execution, the man’s attorney said in a court brief filed Wednesday.
Eric Robert pleaded guilty to killing prison guard Ronald Johnson during a failed escape attempt last April and asked to be executed. A judge sentenced him to death last fall and scheduled his lethal injection for May.
But the South Dakota Supreme Court stayed the execution last month to allow more time for a mandatory review to determine if the sentence is proper, a process that could delay the execution for possibly two years.
Mark Kadi, Robert’s lawyer said in a brief file with the court that while state statute requires a review, it also requires the execution to occur within eight months of a death sentence being handed down.
“The Defendant maintains there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s judgment and sentence, and the punishment was appropriate. The Defendant asserts that his execution should proceed as originally scheduled,” Kadi wrote in the filing.
Kadi earlier filed a motion to vacate the court’s decision to stay the execution on similar grounds but did not hear back from the state attorney general’s office, which was not required to respond. The most recent brief is part of the mandatory review process.
Kadi said Robert asked him to file the brief earlier than required to expedite the process. He said he met with Robert on Friday, and his client is in good spirits but is disappointed with the delay.
“He’s mentally and spiritually preparing himself to go and then having a delay disrupted that process,” Kadi said.
Attorney General Marty Jackley said the state plans to file its brief Thursday. The state’s brief will focus on the three issues the South Dakota Supreme Court is reviewing in the case: whether the sentence was imposed under passion, prejudice or another improper factor; if evidence supports the judge’s finding of a statutory aggravating circumstance; and whether the sentence is excessive or disproportionate compared to similar cases.
Robert was serving an 80-year-sentence on a kidnapping conviction when he attempted to escape April 12 with fellow inmate Rodney Berget.
Johnson was working alone the morning of his death — also his 63rd birthday — in a part of the prison known as Pheasantland Industries, where inmates work on upholstery, signs, custom furniture and other projects. Prosecutors said that after the inmates killed Johnson, Robert put on Johnson’s uniform and tried to carry a large box toward the prison gate with Berget inside. The inmates were apprehended before leaving the grounds.
Berget also pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to death. Another inmate, Michael Nordman, 47, was given a life sentence for providing the plastic wrap and pipe used in the slaying.
The penitentiary made more than a dozen procedural changes less than a month after Johnson’s killing, including adding officers to three areas of the prison and installing additional security cameras. Other changes, outlined in a 28-page report released by the state in May, included further restricting inmate traffic, strengthening perimeter fencing, improving lighting and mandating body alarm “panic buttons” for staff.