Following three days of testimony, the decision of whether an inmate who admits to killing a correctional officer in an escape attempt will get the death penalty or be given a life sentence is in the hands of a judge.
The final day of Eric Robert's sentencing hearing was an emotional one. It included testimony from the wife, son and daughter of corrections officer Ron Johnson. The defendant also addressed the judge who will decide his future.
Robert began his statement by telling Judge Brad Zell that he thinks he deserves to die. Robert said he agrees with Johnson's wife, Lynette, who called Robert a coward during her testimony Wednesday morning. He went on to tell the judge that he would go on to become the standard for the worst, the most aggravating and the most deserving of the death penalty. He said, "If you do not give me the death penalty, you will make it difficult for all other future death penalty cases."
Following Robert's statement, Zell said that he will be thorough as he considers the testimony he heard before deciding on a sentence. Zell says he will not wait too long but it will take time to review the evidence.
Earlier in the day, the wife, daughter and son of murder victim and South Dakota Correctional Officer Ron Johnson gave tearful testimony. The family asked the judge to give Robert the death penalty.
Johnson's son, Jesse, shared photos and memories and said his father was his best friend. He says his dad was the most selfless man he knew. Johnson's daughter, "Missy" Schafer, says she doesn't know how to answer her three children when they ask where their grandfather is or what happened to him.
Johnson's wife, Lynette, testified for nearly an hour Wednesday morning. The couple was together for 34 years and married for 31 years. She says they only spent six nights apart before his death.
When asked how Robert should be punished, Lynette Johnson became very emotional while directly addressing Robert, calling him a coward. She asked the judge to be consistent in his sentencing.