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Justices Uphold Robert’s Death Sentence

August 16, 2012, 4:50 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

Justices Uphold Robert’s Death Sentence
Eric Robert


South Dakota's Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Eric Robert. 

Robert is one of the inmates sentenced to die for the killing of Correctional Officer Ron Johnson during a failed escape attempt from the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.

"I deserve to die," Robert said in court earlier this year.

With just four words, Robert set the tone for what he wished his sentence to be.  Now, he's one step closer to that final outcome as the South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld Judge Brad Zell's sentence.

But that wish is one of the factors the Supreme Court had to consider.  In the 23 page opinion, the Justices wrote, "we do not participate in a program of state-assisted suicide." 

The Justices found that the death sentence was not given to Robert to fulfill that wish.  If it had, they would have reversed the sentence.

Instead, the Justices further reviewed the case and the evidence.  South Dakota law lists circumstances where the death penalty is appropriate.  Because the victim, Officer Ron Johnson, was an employee of a corrections facility, state law allows for the death penalty.

Finally, the Justices had to consider if the sentence was excessive.  They used the outcome of several other cases to find that the death penalty was again appropriate.

"If you sentence me to life, I believe you will read someday that I killed again.  That would be on you," Robert said to the circuit court.

The violent history of Robert was also considered.  But now, instead of getting another chance at violence, he'll soon know exactly what day he'll be put to death.

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