Today's Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports, "Executed man asks S. Dakota to change law for swifter justice." It's by John Hult.
The man executed Monday night for the murder of a corrections officer wrote a letter to South Dakota’s Attorney General asking the state to clarify its death penalty statutes and make it easier for swift executions to be carried out for willing inmates.
The letter from Eric Robert, dated Oct. 8, was released Tuesday afternoon by Attorney General Marty Jackley in response to media requests.
Robert had asked for and received a death sentence for the murder of Officer Ronald “R.J.” Johnson on April 12, 2011. He was put to death by lethal injection Monday night at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.
In the letter, Robert commends Jackley on his conduct in prosecuting the case, although he took issue with the presentation of prior criminal behavior designed, he said, to wrap Robert in a “cloak of evil.”
“However, we did agree on the main point; that in this case my actions deserved the death penalty,” Robert wrote.
Robert did not appeal his sentence, but the state Supreme Court delayed Robert’s initial May execution date to complete a mandatory sentence review. Robert fought the delay through filings from his lawyer challenging the court’s authority to issue a stay in the absence of an appeal or an order for clemency from the governor.
At the end of the letter, Robert encourages Jackley to consider proposing a change to the language of the state’s death penalty statutes to ensure sentence reviews are completed in time to carry out the execution as originally scheduled.
Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Hunt read Robert’s letter Tuesday but said the purpose of the sentence review in a death penalty case is important enough to allow for delays.
The court must determine that a sentence is based on true facts and that the procedural rules were followed to protect a person’s constitutional rights. If a delay is necessary for that reason, Hunt said, it amounts to a reasonable delay.
“This is a matter of life,” Hunt said. “I can appreciate Eric Robert’s situation and his wanting to move forward. I’m sure Officer Johnson’s family wanted it to move forward. But I think history shows us that it helps to take a little more time in these matters.”
Sen. David Lust, the majority leader from Rapid City, agreed, pointing out that Robert’s decision to avoid appeals altogether was incredibly unique.
“I’ve never been a proponent of making a law based on one example,” Lust said. “Unless you can show a compelling need for a law that would apply to all citizens, we don’t need one.”
"Jackley releases letter from killer Robert," is the AP report, via Sioux City Journal.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley is releasing a letter he received last week from an inmate executed Monday night.
The letter dated Oct. 8 from convicted killer Eric Robert reiterates Robert's earlier statements about the death penalty statute. Robert was executed Monday night for the killing of prison guard Ronald Johnson.
In the letter, Robert calls on Jackley to push for a change in the death penalty law to allow for quicker executions in cases where the person is not contesting the sentence.
Earlier coverage of the South Dakota execution begins at the link.
Volunteer is the term applied to inmates on death row who waive their appeals. Related posts are in the volunteer category index.