Sioux Falls, SD
The man who is facing execution for killing South Dakota correctional officer Ron Johnson earlier this year believes he should be put to death.
Monday was the first day of the sentencing hearing for penitentiary inmate Eric Robert.
Robert pleaded guilty last month to murdering Ron 'RJ' Johnson.
Attorney General Marty Jackley is pursuing the death penalty in the case, so a week-long hearing is being held to decide Robert’s fate.
Robert himself believes his crime was so heinous that he should die. During opening statements, Robert's attorney, Mark Kadi, read a letter the inmate wrote to Judge Brad Zell about what he plans to present during this week's hearing.
"Eric Robert will explain to you why he deserves the death penalty for the murder of corrections officer Ron Johnson," Kadi read.
But even though Robert wants to be executed, Attorney General Marty Jackley still has to prove why the admitted killer should die.
Part of the evidence he presented Monday was security video of the attempted escape. In the video, you can see Robert wearing Johnson's uniform and pushing a cart to the west gate of the prison. According to witnesses, inside the box is another inmate, Rodney Berget.
When Robert was confronted about not swiping his card at the gate, Robert and Berget started attacking the officers. That's when they called for back-up.
In the video that was played, you can see the officers come rushing to the gate to subdue the two inmates. The video also shows numerous correctional officials taking Robert and Berget into custody.
When officers realized that Robert was wearing Johnson's uniform, they went looking for their co-worker. They found him in the Pheasantland Industries building full of blood and with shrink wrap around his head. Sergeant Brock Johnson took the stand Monday to describe what he discovered.
"After I had removed the wrap, I could tell that his right eye was swollen. It was swollen shut," Sgt. Johnson said.
Other correctional officers arrived and started calling for an ambulance. Officer Liz Scharton testified that she tried to revive Johnson.
"We laid him flat so we could do CPR and there was blood everywhere," Scharton said.
But it was too late; Robert had killed Johnson with a two-foot metal pipe and shrink wrap, all in an attempt to escape from prison.
Another corrections official testified Monday that when Robert realized their attempted prison break was foiled, he turned to Berget and told him to give up because there was nothing more they could do. That's when the two shook hands before they were taken into custody.