sioux falls, sd
Judge Zell still has more than 450 pages of Eric Robert's criminal file to read and that's just part of the work he'll do prior to issuing a decision.
Zell has presided over death penalty cases before. He said he understood Robert's reasons for not wanting a jury to deliberate the punishment.
Off all the facts presented this week, the one that has not been disputed is that only one man will decide the fate of another.
“But I must weigh all the evidence given; all the information,” Zell said. “And I just follow my oath and follow the law and determine what it shall be.”
And attorneys for both sides addressed the court one last time Wednesday.
“Eric Robert has few freedoms left to him,” Mark Kadi, Robert’s attorney, said. “But he has these rights. And I support his right to make the choices which he still has the freedom left to make.”
“The state has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that this offender, the actions of Eric Donald Robert were outrageous and wantonly vile; that they were inhumane,” South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said.
Zell must now sift through hundreds of pages of documents, letters from Robert's other victims, and weigh the emotional testimony from the family of slain corrections officer Ron Johnson. Zell said Robert's request for the death penalty will be just another part of his decision.
“It will not be made upon sympathy,” Zell said. “It will not be made upon passion. It will not be made by a wish that you seek.
But it will be made in line with the law and in a timely matter. Zell also said he will return one final time to the same courtroom where Robert's punishment has been debated all week to share the final judgment.
During Wednesday's closing arguments, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley also submitted even more letters from Robert's other victims. They range from relatives to people within the State Penitentiary Community.