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October 28, 2011 06:00 PM

Supreme Court, Governor Can Push Back Execution

Sioux Falls, SD

He's been sentenced to death, so when can South Dakotans expect the execution of 49-year-old inmate Eric Robert? 

Robert received the death penalty Thursday after he pleaded guilty to the brutal murder of South Dakota Correctional Officer Ron Johnson during a failed prison escape last April.

Robert himself says he won't file any appeals, but the case will automatically be appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

The justices and possibly Governor Dennis Daugaard will take a thorough look at his case before signing off on the execution.

It could take as little as six months or more than a year for Robert to be executed, but Robert has made it clear he won't be the one to hold up the process.

It's expected that Judge Brad Zell will file a warrant for execution in the next few days which will contain the week when Robert will be executed, that week has to be in the next six to eight months.

During that time the South Dakota Supreme Court will review the case to make sure Robert received the right sentence.

"To look to ensure that the death sentence is appropriate, that there isn't any error with respect to the proceedings, as well as comparing similar type cases to ascertain whether or not the death penalty is appropriate in these circumstances," South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said.

The South Dakota Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in other death penalty appeals and will likely hear oral arguments from both sides in this case as well.

In other cases it's taken the justices up to nine months to render their decision following those arguments. So, it is possible that the week set by Zell for execution could be pushed back by the Supreme Court.

But, they aren't the only ones that could delay the execution, Governor Dennis Daugaard, can also review the case.

"Simultaneously with that the governor of South Dakota has the right to conduct an investigation and to work with the Attorney General's Office with respect to that if the governor so chooses," Jackley said.

And once the governor is done with his review and the Supreme Court determines the death penalty is appropriate Robert will become only the 17th person executed in South Dakota.


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