A South Dakota death-row inmate hopes the discovery of a new son will give him new life.
New court documents from Rodney Berget's attorneys say the admitted killer found out just days after his death sentence in February 2012 that he has a son, daughter-in-law and two grandkids.
Now the attorneys want to present that as evidence during a new sentencing hearing to argue against execution.
Just three days after he was sentenced to die for killing Correctional Officer Ronald 'RJ' Johnson during a failed prison escape, attorneys for Berget say they found out that the admitted killer has a son. The son is identified in court documents as 31-year-old Travis Skeide.
The South Dakota Supreme Court ordered earlier this year that Berget be resentenced following some errors in the first sentencing. But now with this new information, Berget's attorneys believe there should be a completely new sentencing hearing in front of a jury, increasing the inmate's chances of avoiding the death penalty.
The court documents filed late last week claim the death-row inmate has cultivated a 'meaningful relationship' with his son and grandkids. Even though Berget waived his right to be sentenced in front of a jury, his defense attorneys say it wasn't a knowing and intelligent waiver because he didn't know he had these family members at that time.
Attorney General Marty Jackley has responded to the request.
"Berget's demand for hearing apparently concedes that he ignored his son for 31 years," Jackley wrote in a response filed this week.
"Berget was apparently not moved enough by the prospect of a relationship with his son to reach out to him so much as once. 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.
Now it will be up to a judge to decide if the man who said he deserved to die should be able to use his new family to argue against execution.
Berget is also asking that Judge Brad Zell, who sentenced him the first time, be recused from any further court proceedings because he has been biased by sentencing Eric Robert to death for the same crime Berget committed.
All of the decisions on these motions will come at a later date.