april 12, 2012 source :
The South Dakota Supreme Court has denied a death row inmate’s request for a quick execution.
Eric Robert, 49, filed a motion to vacate with the court earlier this year after the justices stayed his May execution. The court issued the stay in order to complete the sentence review mandated by South Dakota law in all death penalty cases.
Robert was sentenced to die by lethal injection in October for the murder of corrections officer Ron “R.J.” Johnson, which took place one year ago today.
Robert’s lawyers argued that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to stay an execution where no appeal has been filed. The inmate has not appealed his sentence or asked for clemency from Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
The high court rejected the notion that it doesn’t have the statutory authority to stay a sentence. The justices ruled unanimously that a sentence review is required, and that a stay can be issued as a part of that process.
“While it is true that this proceeding was not initiated by Robert filing a notice of appeal, it is an exercise of this court’s appellate jurisdiction to review the decision of a lower court – a proceeding upon appeal,” Chief Justice David Gilbertson wrote.
Robert and another inmate, 49-year-old Rodney Berget, attacked Johnson from behind with a metal pipe at the South Dakota State Penitentiary’s prison industries building. Johnson, who was filling in for an ill co-worker on his 63rd birthday, was the lone officer on duty that morning.
After beating him to death, Robert put on Johnson’s uniform and Berget climbed into a box atop a wheeled cart.
The inmates were captured as Robert tried to wheel the cart through the prison’s west gate.
Both men have been sentenced to die for the murder.
A third inmate, 47-year-old Michael Nordman, was given a life sentence for his role in the crime. Nordman, who worked in the prison industries building, traded the plastic wrap and pipe for a prison knife.
A dedication ceremony is planned in Sioux Falls today for the prison’s staff training center, which will be renamed in Johnson’s honor.
- SDakota inmate sentenced to death in guard killing (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- S. Dakota inmate pleads guilty in guard’s murder (seattletimes.nwsource.com)