South Dakota death-row inmate Rodney Berget wants a new sentencing hearing so the relationship with his new-found son and grandchildren can be presented to a jury as evidence against execution.
In court documents filed late last week, Berget’s attorneys say that on February 9, 2012, just three days after Berget was sentenced to death, two individuals came forward on behalf of Berget’s son. Documents say Berget’s 31-year-old son only found out who his real father is in ‘adulthood.’ Berget’s attorneys write that the death-row inmate has now established a ‘meaningful relationship’ with his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.
Berget is facing execution after killing Correctional Officer Ron ‘RJ’ Johnson during a failed prison escape in April 2011. The South Dakota Supreme Court recently asked that Berget be resentenced after finding the circuit court did not properly use statements Berget made during a psychiatric evaluation before the sentencing.
Berget now wants a completely new hearing in front of a jury instead of just in front of a judge.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley responded to the request Tuesday, saying Berget has already waived his rights to be sentenced in front of a jury.
“If family and fatherhood was such a meaningful consideration to Berget, it should have deterred him from robbing RJ Johnson’s son and daughter of their father,” Jackley wrote in the response. “Where Berget sees redemptive mitigation evidence in this newfound-son scenario, the state sees only further aggravating evidence of selfishness and failure to accept his responsibilities in life.”
We will have more details on this developing story later today on KELOLAND News.