Judge Zell announces his retirement

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls judge who has presided over five death penalty cases is retiring.

Judge Bradley Zell, who has been on the bench for almost 20 years, made that announcement Monday.

KELOLAND News sat down with him as he talked about some of the most notable cases.

“It’s time,” Judge Zell sits in his upstairs office at the Minnehaha County Courthouse quietly reflecting on a career where he presided over some of the most heinous crimes this state has ever seen.

But the 61-year old says he’s retiring with no regrets.

“I think everyone in their career gets to a point where you say it’s time to let someone else do it, and enjoy the other parts of life,” Zell said.

Zell, who was appointed as judge in the second circuit by Governor Rounds back in 2003, has presided over 30 murder cases and five death penalty cases.

Because they waived their right to a jury trial, Judge Zell is the one who decided inmates Eric Robert and Rodney Berget would die by lethal injection.

“I do think about it,” Zell said.

Judge Zell says making a decision like that, to take someone else’s life, stays with you.

‘Being a Christian person when the day comes to meet my maker one of the questions I’m certain will be asked of me by God will be, ‘why did you take one of my creations, who are you to make that decision, no one is perfect and yet you made that decision,” Zell said.

Judge Zell says he’s certain Robert and Berget probably would have killed again, so he had to stop them.

“That’s my job, yep, anyone who puts on the robe you’re trying to do justice each time that will stick with me long after I leave the bench,” Zell said.

Judge Zell says he’s retiring now because it’s an election year, so he wanted to give others a chance to run for the 2nd Circuit.

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