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Berget Sentenced to Death for Murder of Senior Correctional Officer Ronald Johnson

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PIERRE, S.D  -   Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that Second Circuit Judge Bradley Zell has denied Rodney Berget’s request for a new sentencing hearing and imposed the sentence of death.

“The heinousness of the crime, as well as Berget’s extensive criminal history, hopeless chance of rehabilitation and multiple attempts of escape leave no alternative but to protect the public through imposition of the death penalty,” said Jackley. “Our thoughts remain with Officer Johnson’s family and extended family at the Department of Corrections.”

Judge Zell stated in his opinion that upon consideration and review of the existing court record that “this Court finds pursuant to SDCL 23A-27-1 et. seq. that when weighing the seriousness of the crime, Murder in the First Degree; the hopeless chance of rehabilitating Berget inside the penal walls since Berget’s criminal behavior has escalated from non-violent behavior to extremely violent behavior making it more likely than not that Berget would probably hurt or kill again if given the opportunity; the lack of any deterring effect a punishment of life imprisonment would have on Berget and upon inmates similarly situated; and when weighing the mitigating circumstances presented and considered in this matter and finding they do not outweigh the aggravating circumstances of this crime, the only effective and reasonable retribution or punishment under the totality of circumstances in this matter is the imposition of the death penalty.”

Once the amended Findings and Conclusions of Law and Judgment are filed, it will be the State’s intent to request the trial court to set the execution date to occur within not less than 6 months nor more than eight months consistent with South Dakota law.

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