FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE : Friday, May 23, 2014
CONTACT: Sara Rabern (605)773-3215
South Dakota Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Berget Appeal of Death Sentence
PIERRE, S.D – The South Dakota Supreme Court will hear Rodney Scott Berget’s second appeal of his death sentence in argument scheduled for May 27, 2014. Berget was sentenced to death for the 2011 killing of Corrections Officer Ron Johnson during a failed attempt to escape from the Sioux Falls Penitentiary. Berget was serving a life sentence for attempted murder and an additional life sentence for raping a convenience store clerk.
“At trial the state presented substantial aggravating evidence demonstrating the heinousness of the crime as well as Berget’s extensive criminal history, hopeless chance of rehabilitation, and multiple attempts at escape. It is the State’s position that the trial court followed the Supreme Court instructions, and Berget is not entitled to further reopen the proceedings,” said Attorney General Marty Jackley.
In January of 2013, The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed 11 issues including the appropriateness of the death sentence for Berget’s crime. However, the Court reversed the original sentence because the admission of statements Berget made to a psychiatrist violated Berget’s right against self-incrimination and remanded the case to the trial court for a limited re-sentencing and the opportunity for Berget to call the psychiatrist as a witness. At the re-sentencing, Berget did not call the psychiatrist as a witness and raised additional issues in relation to his son. The trial court then again sentenced Berget to death by lethal injection. Berget now appeals from the trial court’s re-imposition of a death sentence claiming that the court should have opened up the record to take additional evidence at the second sentencing proceeding.
The argument is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at the Supreme Court’s chambers in the State Capitol Building.