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Eric Robert Sentenced To Death



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The inmate who killed a corrections officer at the South Dakota State Penitentiary this spring has been sentenced to death for his crime.

Judge Brad Zell issued his ruling late Thursday morning. Robert had requested that a judge, not a jury, decide whether he was sentenced to life in prison or death.

Zell informed Robert of his ruling by reading an 11 page verdict out loud, reviewing much of the testimony heard in a sentencing hearing that lasted 3 days. During the hearing, Robert told Zell he deserved to die for his crime.

Zell told the court he understood Robert's testimony, but could not consider it as evidence for his ruling because the state could not assist with suicide. Zell said the state had proven beyond reasonable doubt the aggravating factors necessary to consider the death penalty.

Zell told Robert he would remain in custody at the state prison until a time and date could be set for his execution by lethal injection. Zell said the date would be set in the next six to eight months.

Robert confessed to killing 63-year-old Ronald "RJ" Johnson, a corrections officer at the prison, on April 12. He told the judge in his testimony that if he was not put to death, he would kill again.

KDLT News was in the courtroom when the verdict is read and will bring you much more from the judge's verdict on KDLT News at 5, 6 and 10.
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