Rodney Berget Wants Death Penalty Process to Proceed
A convicted killer says his fight has lasted long enough. Rodney Berget stepped forward to withdraw his appeal for the death penalty.
This is just the latest in a string of legal maneuvers that has accompanied this case since Berget and co-conspirator Eric Robert were found guilty of killing South Dakota Prison Guard Ronald Johnson in 2011 during a failed escape attempt from the State Penitentiary.
KDLT news reported that Judge Doug Hoffman said in court Friday he received a letter from Berget in August stating he wanted to move forward with his execution against the wishes of his legal counsel. Berget stated in court that he wanted Friday to be his “last day in court” and he understands his decision to waive his right to appeal his death sentence.
In response, Berget’s attorney, Eric Schulte, questioned the ability of his client to make such a decision. Thus, Schulte petitioned the court to have a mental evaluation done to confirm Berget’s wishes. Judge Hoffman granted the request with the screening to take place within the next 60 to 90 days.
Berget’s original death sentence was overturned on appeal in 2013 because of statements made during a psychiatric evaluation that were improperly used. Then Berget attempted to use the discovery of a long-lost son and grandchildren as evidence of turning over a new leaf.
Eventually Berget was sentenced again to death which was upheld by the South Dakota Supreme Court in 2014. Judge Bradley Zell was the sentencing judge in both instances and refused to consider new evidence for the resentencing.
Berget was then scheduled to be executed in May of 2015 before Judge Hoffman had issued a stay of the sentence due to a habeas petition. Robert was executed in October 2012 after requesting that his time on death row be unhindered by declining to appeal his sentence.