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Attorney General Marty Jackley

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South Dakota Supreme Court Denies Eric Robert’s Challenge to Judicial Review of his Death Sentence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE :     Thursday, April 12, 2012
CONTACT:   Sara Rabern,  (605) 773-3215 

South Dakota Supreme Court Denies Eric Robert’s Challenge to Judicial Review of his Death Sentence


PIERRE, S.D.  –  Attorney General Marty J. Jackley announces that the South Dakota Supreme Court has denied Defendant Eric Robert’s motion challenging judicial review of his death sentence. On September 16, 2011, Eric Robert was convicted for his role in the murder of Senior Correctional Officer Ronald ‘RJ’ Johnson.  On October 27, 2011, the trial court sentenced Eric Robert to death by lethal injection for the crimes he committed.  In February, Robert filed a motion challenging the South Dakota Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to review his death sentence.

In its opinion, the South Dakota Supreme Court recognized that under S.D. Const. art V, Sec 5:

The Supreme Court shall have such appellate jurisdiction as may be provided by the Legislature, and the Supreme Court or any justice thereof may issue any original or remedial writ which shall then be heard and determined by that court.

The Court went on to recognize that “the Legislature granted this Court jurisdiction over this matter by mandating that it review Robert’s sentence.”   The Court opined that “Meaningful appellate review is an important component to the constitutional imposition of the death penalty,” as required by the United States Supreme Court.  Significantly, the decision reemphasized that “this Court has ‘note[d] that the United States Supreme Court has approved a state capital punishment scheme that is nearly identical to South Dakota’s death penalty laws.’” 

On March 15, the Attorney General’s Office filed its appellate brief to the South Dakota Supreme Court requesting that the death sentence be carried out because the evidence supports the finding of at least one aggravating circumstance, and that the sentence is appropriate for the crime committed.   

It is anticipated that at the conclusion of the briefing schedule in June 2012, the case will be ready for the Supreme Court’s final review on the merits.