Judge Rules Rodney Berget Not Intellectually Disabled, Execution Sentence Upheld
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A Minnehaha County judge has ruled convicted murderer Rodney Berget is not intellectually disabled.
The ruling means Berget is now legally able to be executed for his role in the death of Correctional Officer Ronald “RJ” Johnson.
“It’s just an emotional torturous roller coaster that you have, and we just try to get through it the best that we knew how,” said Johnson’s widow, Lynette.
The family of Johnson endured four days of testimony. Once again, hearing details of how Rodney Berget carried out a failed prison escape plan that took the life of Johnson in 2011.
“Certainly it has been a long seven years,” said Attorney General Marty Jackley. “It has been a difficult case for Officer Johnson’s family.”
Berget was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2012.
Part of a Habeas Corpus petition meant Berget’s mental ability had to be evaluated and cleared before he can be executed.
“I think today kind of came an end to the conversation of whether or not there is a mental retardation or mental disability,” said Jackley. “I believe the court was extremely thorough.”
The court heard testimony from seven witnesses, including two psychologists, Berget’s former teachers, a principal, his ex-wife, and a social worker. Records of Berget’s many IQ tests and screenings were also scrutinized.
“It was all important, because what it showed is an individual who had behavior problems,” said Jackley.
Ultimately, Judge Hoffman ruled Berget was of sound mind when committing the murder, and is not intellectually disabled.
“Today was an important day to move this case forward to help being a level of close to Officer Johnson’s family and to these proceedings.”
Once written findings are filed, Berget’s case will go back to the sentencing court to move forward with the execution.