FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 6, 2017
CONTACT: Sara Rabern (605) 773-3215
PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that Circuit Court Judge Hoffman has ordered Berget’s counsel to submit a report addressing whether Berget is mentally disabled before further ruling on State’s Motion to Dismiss. In September 2016, Berget told the court he did not want to appeal his case any further. The State filed a motion to dismiss.
"It remains the State’s position that due process has been satisfied. Testing from throughout Berget’s life shows that he is a person of at least ordinary intelligence meeting both federal and state competency requirements. This is a serious and tragic matter, and the state will continue its efforts to move these proceedings forward in a timely fashion," said Jackley.
On February 6, 2012, Berget was sentenced to death for the 2011 killing of Senior Corrections Officer Ronald ‘RJ’ 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. Berget had engaged in countless escape attempts in the past.
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 but sought to introduce alleged new evidence regarding his family as mitigation against a new death sentence. The trial court again sentenced Berget to death by lethal injection.
Berget appealed 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. The South Dakota Supreme Court rejected Berget’s appeal, citing the fact that Berget had a full opportunity to present all his desired mitigating evidence at his original sentencing. Berget petitioned the South Dakota Supreme Court to rehear his appeal, which the court denied in an order issued October 17, 2014. In March 2015, the United States Supreme Court denied Berget’s petition Writ of Certiorari.