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US Supreme Court rejects appeal by death row inmate Berget

March 2, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied an appeal by Rodney Berget, who is on death row for his role in killing a South Dakota Penitentiary guard during an escape attempt about four years ago.

Justices rejected Berget’s request to overturn his conviction and death sentence, U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley announced Monday.

“I believe due process has been satisfied and that the interest of justice has been served,” Jackley said.

An attorney for Berget, Jeff Larson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Berget is to die by lethal injection the week of May 3, though Jackley said Berget could file more appeals. The specific time and date will be chosen by the warden of the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls and announced at least 48 hours before the execution.

Berget was serving life sentences for attempted murder and kidnapping when he tried to escape in April 2011 with Eric Robert, who was serving 80 years in prison for a kidnapping conviction. They attacked and killed guard Ronald Johnson while he was alone in an inmate work area. Robert then donned Johnson’s uniform and tried to move a large box with Berget inside toward the prison gate, but they were caught before getting outside.

Robert was executed in 2012. A third inmate, Michael Nordman, was sentenced to life in prison for providing plastic wrap and a pipe used in Johnson’s slaying, which happened on his 63rd birthday.

Berget was sentenced to death in February 2012. The state Supreme Court overturned his sentence in January 2013, saying a circuit judge had improperly considered a statement Berget made to a psychiatrist. In May 2013, Berget was sentenced to death again. Larson appealed on his behalf, saying a lower court should have allowed additional evidence about Berget’s newfound relationship with his son before he was resentenced. The state Supreme Court last August rejected that argument and upheld the sentence.


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