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February 02, 2012 09:36 AM

Expert Says SD Guard Probably Died Within Minutes

sioux falls, sd

A forensic pathologist says a South Dakota prison guard who died after his head was bashed with a pipe probably died within minutes of the attack.

Pathologist Thomas Bennett, of Billings, Montana, testified during the last day of the pre-sentence hearing for 49-year-old Rodney Berget.

Berget has pleaded guilty to killing Ronald Johnson on April 12 - Johnson's 63rd birthday - during a failed prison escape with fellow inmate Eric Robert. A judge is weighing whether Berget should be sentenced to death.

Bennett says that in his opinion, the blows to Johnson's head rendered him unconscious immediately.  A coroner earlier testified for the state that he believed Johnson suffered.

Zell earlier sentenced the 49-year-old Robert to death for his part in the slaying.

You can listen in to the hearing live on the Live Coverage page.
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