South Dakota executes man convicted of killing correctional officer

By Daniel Uria

Oct. 29 (UPI) -- South Dakota executed a man who killed a correctional officer during a failed prison escape in 2011.

Rodney Berget, 56, was executed by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 7:37 p.m. after six years of court delays and a delay of more than five hours on Monday.


Berget was sentenced to death for killing Ron "R.J." Johnson while he had been serving a life sentence for an attempted murder and kidnapping conviction.

The other inmate who attempted to escape the prison, Eric Robert, was executed in 2012 after pleading guilty and Michael Nordman was sentenced to life in prison for providing the plastic wrap and pipe used in the killing.

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Berget's execution was scheduled for 1:30 p.m., but was delayed as attorney Juliet Yackel appealed on the grounds Berget was intellectually disabled. Over the weekend Berget filed an affadavit saying he had told Yackel that he has "not authorized her to submit anything to the court on his behalf" and didn't want to contest the execution.

At 6:30 p.m. Attorney General Marty Jackley said Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch denied the appeal.


Berget began his final words at 7:29 p.m and began with a joke, witnesses said.

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"Sorry for the delay," he said. "I got caught in traffic."

Johnson's wife, Lynette Johnson, thanked those who worked on the case while noting Berget was granted a more peaceful death than her husband.

"They broke his neck, they severed fingers, broke his wrists, he didn't have the back of his head ... that's cruel and unusual punishment," she said. "What Berget went through ... peaceful, clean, sterile, dignified."

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