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His Brother Was Executed in 2000. He Shared That Fate

Rodney Berget just the 4th man to be executed in South Dakota since 1979
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2018 8:31 PM CDT
In this April 13, 2011 file photo, Rodney Berget, who was convicted of killing a Sioux Falls prison guard during an escape attempt, is escorted to court in Sioux Falls, SD.   (Elisha Page/Argus Leader via AP, File)
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(Newser) – Rodney Berget, 56, was put to death by lethal injection Monday night for the 2011 murder of a South Dakota prison guard, marking the state's fourth execution since it reinstated the death penalty in 1979. The last execution took place in 2012. The execution had been slated for 1:30pm but was delayed as the Supreme Court considered whether to stay Berget's execution. Attorney General Marty Jackley announced the decision around 6:30pm. More:

  • The crime: It was April 12, 2011, Ronald "RJ" Johnson's 63rd birthday. He wasn't supposed to be working at the South Dakota State Penitentiary, but he was filling in for a sick co-worker. Berget and Eric Robert had for months plotted their escape, which involved beating a guard, who ended up being Johnson, with a pipe and covering his face with plastic wrap. Robert put on Johnson's uniform and pushed a cart of boxes out of the prison; Berget was in one of them. But things went awry at the second gate, and the men never made it outside the prison. Robert was executed on Oct. 15, 2012, but Berget's case dragged due to his mental status, reports the AP.
  • The Intercept dives deep into whether Berget had an intellectual disability that should have barred him from execution, and opens with a powerful anecdote: Of Juliet Yackel, a woman who had been hired as part of Berget’s state habeas appeal, visiting him and hearing Berget boast of a precious childhood memory—participating in the Special Olympics. That alarmed her, and her investigation into his childhood (he was found to have an IQ of 70 at age 9) convinced her that "something had gone horribly wrong with Berget's defense," as the Intercept puts it, as his intellectual capacity hadn't featured into his trial. But in February, a judge upheld the death sentence.

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