Court upholds death sentence in SD guard killing

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Associated Press

Posted on August 16, 2012 at 10:01 AM

Updated Thursday, Aug 16 at 10:31 AM

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence for an inmate who killed a state prison guard during a failed escape attempt.

Fifty-year-old Eric Robert pleaded guilty to killing Ron Johnson in April 2011 and asked to be executed for the crime.

A circuit judge sentenced Robert to death and set his execution for May. The Supreme Court postponed the execution so it could review the case. It ruled Thursday that the death sentence was proper.

The unanimous ruling says the sentence is proportionate to the crime and aggravating circumstances justify the death penalty. The high court says Circuit Judge Bradley Zell can now issue another execution order.

A second inmate involved in the escape attempt, 49-year-old Rodney Berget, also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death.

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