A South Dakota inmate has been spared as his death sentence is overturned for now, and the S.D. Supreme Court ruled that Rodney Berget was sentenced to die wrongly after evidence was submitted from statements the inmate made to a psychiatrist.
Judges on the S.D. Supreme court overturned the death sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing for Berget, who was convicted in the murder of a Sioux Falls prison guard back in April, 2011.
Berget’s death sentence was overturned, but that of Eric Robert — who pled guilty in the death of the guard at the South Dakota State Penitentiary — was carried out in October, when Berget’s fellow inmate was executed by lethal injection.
According to the Argus Leader, the basic facts of the case in South Dakota in which the death sentence were overturned were not in dispute, and the paper says:
“Berget and Robert killed [Ronald] Johnson with a metal pipe and wrapped his head in plastic that day, after which Robert donned Johnson’s uniform and Berget climbed into a box atop a wheeled cart. The two were captured at the prison’s west gate as Robert was attempting to push the cart off the penitentiary grounds.”
It was ruled that Berget’s right to be free of self-incrimination was impeded upon when he had said:
“[Johnson's family will] never see their father again or husband,” Berget said in the statement. “He will never walk through that door again. I made sure of that by my actions. I’m not going to beg the Court or ask the Court to spare my life. I believe I deserve the death penalty for what I’ve done.”
After the S.D. inmate’s death penalty sentence was overturned, State Attorney General Marty Jackley said in a statement:
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has affirmed the overwhelming majority of the evidence was appropriately considered… The single remaining issue surrounding psychological evaluation may be conducted on the existing record without causing excessive delay.”
It was not immediately clear when the new sentencing hearing would occur after Berget’s death sentence was overturned.