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February 02, 2012 05:55 PM

Attorney: Berget Sees Execution As Final Escape

Sioux Falls, SD

Rodney Berget asked to be executed Thursday, but his attorney asked for mercy.

Berget is facing the death penalty for killing Correctional Officer Ron Johnson during a failed prison escape in April.

Berget is currently serving two life sentences and his attorney Jeff Larson said during closing statements Thursday that his client sees execution as his final escape plan.

"Rodney felt he was in a hopeless situation. He had no one. He was sentenced to life. He could not tolerate the thought of being there another 20 to 30 years," Larson said.

Larson said Berget, who has tried to escape from prison eight times, is remorseful for his past crimes.  Larson says Berget has never wanted to show his remorse in court because he now sees the death penalty as his only way out of the prison walls.

Larson fears if Berget is sentenced to die, other inmates will get the wrong message.

"Do you want to send the message that this is a way of shortening a sentence for people who feel a life sentence is intolerable," Larson said.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says death is the only sentence that should be considered because of Berget's violent past and his history of escaping.

"Make no mistake about it.  This case is not about ending a life sentence through the death penalty process; this case was to end two life sentences by an escape, a selfish act," Jackley said.

And Jackley says a third life sentence for Berget will not protect the public.

"The evidence in this case leads to the inescapable conclusion that defendant Berget's extreme violent actions and his intensive escape history can be ended only with the imposition of death," Jackley said.

Judge Brad Zell is now deliberating Berget's sentence.

There is no exact timetable for his decision, but it could come in the next few days.
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