The Supreme Court of S.D. overturns the death sentence of an inmate who was convicted of killing a prison guard almost two years ago. The South Dakota Supreme Court made a controversial ruling which stated that the accused killer, Rodney Berget, 50, must receive a new sentencing hearing due to an improper consideration of a statement made to a psychiatrist. The original judge that sentenced him to death, is blamed for the action.
The statement, which was posted by Yahoo! on Jan. 3 said:
"They'll never see their father again or husband. 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."
The Supreme Court said they couldn't confirm that when Berget said he deserves the death penalty for the murder of Ronald Johnson, that it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
Chief Justice David Gilbertson stated:
"This statement, while expressing Berget's belief that he deserves the death penalty, does not touch on his motivation for pleading guilty."
After Berget's guilty plea to the murder of Johnson on his birthday, Circuit Judge Bradley Zell then sentenced Berget to death. Berget later filed an appeal to the sentencing, but not the conviction.
Another person involved in the case, Eric Robert, also submitted a guilty plea and he was executed in October. The third person involved, Michael Nordman, received a life sentence for providing materials used in the killing.