Ronald Johnson

SOUTH DAKOTA – Upcoming execution, ERIC ROBERT, week of october 14, 2012 EXECUTED 10.24 p.m


Warrant of Execution for Eric Robert Issued

PIERRE, S.D –  Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that the warrant of execution for Eric Donald Robert has been issued by Second Circuit Court Judge Bradley Zell. Robert is scheduled to be executed between the hours of 12:01 a.m. and 11:59 p.m., during the week of Sunday, October 14, 2012, through Saturday, October 20, 2012, inclusive, at a specific time and date to be selected by the Warden of the State Penitentiary.
Pursuant to South Dakota law, the Warden will announce to the public the scheduled day and hour within forty-eight hours of the execution. South Dakota law further provides that for the execution, the warden is to request “the presence of the attorney general, the trial judge before whom the conviction was had or the judge’s successor in office, the state’s attorney and sheriff of the county where the crime was committed, representatives of the victims, at least one member of the news media, and a number of reputable adult citizens to be determined by the warden.

2011

A veteran prison guard who turned 63 on Tuesday was killed during a failed escape attempt at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.

Ronald E. Johnson was pronounced dead at a Sioux Falls hospital at 11:50 a.m. after an alleged assault by inmates Eric Robert and Rodney Berget about an hour earlier. Authorities won’t say how Johnson was killed and are not releasing details about the incident.

“It was his birthday today,” said Jesse Johnson, Ronald Johnson’s son. “That’s kind of the gut-wrenching thing about it.”

Another penitentiary employee sustained minor injuries in the attack.

The two inmates, both 48, were caught before they made it off the prison grounds and were transported to the Minnehaha County Jail.

Berget has escaped from the penitentiary in the past and tried other unsuccessful escapes. Robert has planned an escape while in prison, authorities said.

Johnson of Sioux Falls, a 23-year penitentiary veteran, was the first corrections officer killed by inmates since 1951, according to Department of Corrections records.

His friends and family knew him as “R.J.,” according to his son. The elder Johnson was a proud father of two and a grandfather of six, his son said, and anyone who knew him would call him an easy-going guy.

“He loved to relax and play with his grandkids,” Jesse Johnson said. “He never had a bad thing to say about anybody.”

R.J. Johnson had lived through a violent riot at the penitentiary in 1993 and dealt with inmate escape attempts before. The family understood the dangers, but Jesse Johnson said his father never dwelled on it.

Officials with the Department of Corrections, Division of Criminal Investigation, Attorney General’s Office and Gov. Dennis Daugaard declined interview requests Tuesday, but Daugaard’s office released this statement:

“I am deeply saddened by Mr. Johnson’s death, and I am praying for his family and friends at this very difficult time. This incident is a somber reminder that our prison guards put themselves at risk, every day, to protect South Dakota from our worst criminals.”

The penitentiary is under lockdown and will remain that way while the DCI conducts its investigation, according to the governor’s office.

“The attackers are in custody and under confinement. We will act swiftly to bring these murderers to justice and to ensure the safety of our prison staff,” Daugaard’s statement said.

Berget and Robert have yet to be charged, but Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said the men are being closely monitored at the jail and treated as risks to public and officer safety.

Minnehaha County sheriff’s deputies were the first to respond to the scene, Milstead said, and deputies and the Sioux Falls Police Department were at the penitentiary to assist DCI agents all day.

Johnson is the first law enforcement official killed in the line of duty in South Dakota since the 2009 slaying of Turner County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Mechels by 21-year-old Ethan Johns.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Milstead said of Johnson’s killing. “People are still suffering over the loss of Chad Mechels, and now we have this.”
Criminal histories

Robert of Piedmont was serving an 80-year-sentence for a 2005 kidnapping out of Meade County. Berget of Aberdeen was serving two life sentences – one for attempted murder in Lawrence County and one for kidnapping in Meade County. Both convictions came in 2003.

Meade County State’s Attorney Jesse Sondreal prosecuted both men. He called Robert “one of the most potentially dangerous men I’ve ever met.”

Robert posed as a police officer, pulled over 18-year-old Briana St. Clair near Blackhawk, threw her in the trunk of her own car and drove away. St. Clair used her cell phone to call 911 from the trunk. Sheriff’s deputies found her in the abandoned vehicle.

Police found rope and a shovel in Robert’s vehicle.

“But for her cell phone, she would have been raped and killed,” Sondreal said.

Robert asked for a sentence modification in 2008. When Robert’s former cellmate heard news of the request, he sent a letter to Sondreal pleading with the prosecutor to oppose any reduction in sentence.

“This guy (Robert) scared him so bad that he moved out of the cell,” Sondreal said. “He didn’t want him to get out of jail.”

Sondreal successfully prevented a sentence reduction by citing the letter, evidence that Robert had raped a former girlfriend in Chamberlain and information indicating that Robert had planned an escape attempt during his first two years at the penitentiary.

Berget has attempted escape on several occasions. Berget pleaded guilty to escape charges in 1984 while serving a sentence for grand theft.

On May 16, 1987, Berget and five other inmates escaped through a vent in the penitentiary’s recreation building in the largest escape in state history at the time.

Berget, Kelly Briggs, Rodney Horned Eagle, Dean Nilles and Alan Schultz were captured within two months. James Weddell eluded authorities until May 1989.

Berget was released on the escape charge in 2002. His current prison sentence was imposed in connection with a June 2003 arrest after a 150-mile chase that ended in Haakon County. Berget stole a car in Missoula, Mont., shot and wounded two people in Lead on June 2, then abducted a convenience-store clerk in Sturgis before surrendering after a long standoff near Midland, authorities say. In the kidnapping, he was charged with raping the clerk, who managed to jump out of the car when law officers stopped it.

Berget’s ex-girlfriend – one of the shooting victims – said Tuesday that she’s lived in fear for eight years.

Beatrice Miranda met Berget at a Deadwood Casino and dated him for about six months before she broke up with him. Within a week of the breakup in 2003, Berget forced his way into her house in Lead and exchanged gunfire with her.

Miranda was shot in the back. Her new boyfriend, Brian Horstmann, was shot in the chest. Both survived.

Miranda on Tuesday said that she was relieved that Berget is in custody. He had tried to escape three times before, she said.

“That’s what I was always afraid of. It was always in the back of my mind,” Miranda said. “I don’t leave my curtains open. I always lock the doors. People know not to knock real loud because I have real bad panic attacks.”

Miranda said she’ll remain in fear as long as Berget is alive.

“I am so happy he didn’t escape,” she said. “As long as he’s alive, he’s going to try and do something. I hope he gets the death penalty.”

If the inmates are found to have intentionally killed Johnson, Sondreal would agree with Miranda. Under South Dakota law, killing a law enforcement officer is considered an aggravating factor in a murder charge that allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Sondreal says the long and violent criminal history of Berget and the disturbing details of the Robert case easily could make the Johnson killing a capital murder.

“I think the death penalty could be appropriate in this case,” Sondreal said. “Knowing their history and what they’re capable of, how could you put another corrections officer at risk?”

South Dakota Supreme Court to hear arguments in appeal by death-row inmate Rodney Berget


October1, 2012 http://www.therepublic.com

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A lawyer for a man who pleaded guilty to killing a prison guard and was sentenced to death earlier this year is appealing the sentence to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Monday in the case of 50-year-old Rodney Berget. Berget pleaded guilty to killing guard Ronald Johnson on his 63rd birthday in April 2011 at the state penitentiary during a botched prison escape. A judge sentenced Berget to die by lethal injection. But Berget’s lawyer is now appealing the sentence.

A second inmate involved in the escape attempt, 50-year-old Eric Robert, is scheduled to die by lethal injection during the week of Oct. 14. A third inmate was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement.

SOUTH DAKOTA – SD death row inmate asks for execution to proceed – Eric Robert


June 13, 2012 Source : http://www.mitchellrepublic.com

SIOUX FALLS  — A man sentenced to death for killing a prison guard says the state Supreme Court’s decision to delay his execution to allow for a mandatory review is denying him his constitutional rights.

Eric Robert, 50, will ask the South Dakota Supreme Court to allow his execution to proceed and is proposing legislative changes to prevent similar cases in the future in briefs that are expected to be filed later this week or early next week.

Robert pleaded guilty to killing prison guard Ronald Johnson during a botched prison escape in April 2011. A judge sentenced him to death for the crime last fall, and his execution was set for May. But the South Dakota Supreme Court stayed the execution in February to allow more time for a mandatory review, which could delay the execution for up to two years.

In briefs not yet filed with the court but given to The Associated Press in an email, Mark Kadi, Robert’s lawyer, argues that Robert has a constitutional, due process right to be executed based on the trial court’s order.

“If this process will take up to (two) years as reported, Robert proposes we seek to answer the main underlying issue in this case: does a death row inmate have a constitutional right to die on time as ordered?” Kadi said in an email.

In the briefs, Robert proposed the Legislature consider changes to the law, allowing death penalty proceedings to be given priority in the state Supreme Court or, absent a voluntary appeal, requiring the court to review the case in a set number of days before the execution date.

The briefs noted that during the months since Robert was sentenced, the state Supreme Court has reviewed numerous cases, including civil cases such as the dispute between actor Kevin Costner and an artist about whether sculptures were appropriately displayed at a Deadwood resort.

“These civil cases are undoubtedly important to the parties involved regarding their equitable or monetary interests. Death penalty cases due to their special nature and consequences, however, deserve special consideration,” the brief said.

Attorney General Marty Jackley said he could not comment on the new briefs because he has not yet seen them. Under appellate procedure, the state is only allowed to file one brief, which it has already done.

Robert was serving an 80-year-sentence on a kidnapping conviction when he attempted to escape April 12, 2011, 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 death, including adding officers and installing additional security cameras. Other changes, outlined in a 28-page report, included further restricting inmate traffic, strengthening perimeter fencing, improving lighting and mandating body alarm “panic buttons” for staff.

SOUTH DAKOTA – Eric Robert objects delayed death sentence


SIOUX FALLS, S.D.  – An attorney for a man sentenced to death for the killing of a prison guard is submitting a brief to the South Dakota Supreme Court objecting to the court’s decision to delay the execution.

Eric Robert, 49, pleaded guilty to killing prison guard Ronald Johnson and asked to be executed. His execution was for May, but the South Dakota Supreme Court vacated the execution in February to allow more time for a mandatory review to determine if the sentence is proper.

The review process could delay the execution for possibly two years.

Mark Kadi, Robert’s lawyer, says that while state statute requires a review, it also requires the execution to occur within eight months of the death sentence being handed down.

sourcehttp://www.ksfy.com