Sioux Falls, SD
Correctional Officer Ron Johnson's family members asked Judge Brad Zell to sentence inmate Eric Robert to death for the brutal murder of their husband and father Wednesday during the final day of Robert’s sentencing hearing.
Robert spoke to Judge Zell in court Wednesday asking for his own execution, and explaining what he was thinking on April 12th when he tried to escape from prison.
For the last three days 49-year-old Eric Robert sat back and listened to how horrendous his attempted prison break was when he tried to escape from the state penitentiary with fellow inmate Rodney Berget. In court Wednesday Robert said that day could have been even more deadly.
"On the 12th of April this was a war to me. It was staffs’ duty to ensure I stayed in prison for the rest of my life. It was my duty to defeat them," Robert said.
Robert says the only reason he climbed the outside gate at the prison was to get a rifle from another correctional officer so he could kill more prison staff.
"I would have shot that weapon until it was empty. I was a hunter, so I can hit a target. I would have killed a lot of people that day," Robert said.
But, Robert and Berget were caught, and Robert has admitted to the crime. Wednesday he told Judge Brad Zell he is the poster-child for lethal injection.
"I would say that I would become the standard for the worst, the most aggravating, the most deserving of a death penalty," Robert said.
Robert also said during his 15 -minute statement that he didn't consider the correctional officers as humans that day, until he heard from Johnson's family in court.
"I wouldn't have been able to say people until I heard from the family of the Johnson's because I didn't see them as people then. They were my enemy. They are just human beings doing their job," Robert said.
And Robert has now put the pressure squarely on Judge Zell to sentence him to death.
"On the 12th of April, 2011, I would have killed anyone that would have stood in my way between me and freedom. Brad Zell if you stood between me and the door to freedom I would kill you. If I sat in your chair I would execute me. Do the right thing," Robert said.
And the only person that can make that decision now is Judge Zell himself.
Robert did say in court that lethal injection is the only way to prevent him from killing again.
Judge Zell plans to hand down a sentence soon but wants to take some time to consider all the evidence.