South Dakota inmate who killed prison guard put to death in state's first execution since 2007
(CBS/AP) SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A South Dakota man who beat a prison guard with a pipe and then covered his head in plastic wrap to kill him during a failed escape attempt was put to death Monday, in the state's first execution since 2007.
Eric Robert, 50, received a lethal injection and was pronounced dead at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls at 10:24 p.m. He is the first South Dakota inmate to die under the state's new single-drug lethal injection method, and the 17th person to be executed in the state or Dakota Territory since 1877.
Asked if he had a last statement, Robert said: "In the name of justice and liberty and mercy, I authorize and forgive Warden Douglas Weber to execute me for the crimes. It is done."
Robert was put to death in the same prison where he killed guard Ronald "RJ" Johnson during an escape attempt on April 12, 2011. Robert was serving an 80-year-sentence on a kidnapping conviction when he tried to break out with a fellow inmate, 50-year-old Rodney Berget.
Authorities said the inmates beat Johnson with a pipe, covered his head in plastic wrap and left his body on the floor. Robert put on the guard's clothes and attempted to escape through the prison's west gate, pushing a cart loaded with two boxes, one of which contained Berget, according to a report filed by a prison worker. The guards became suspicious and both inmates were recaptured.
Months after the failed attempt, Robert told a judge his only regret was that he hadn't killed more guards. He pleaded guilty to Johnson's slaying and asked to be sentenced to death, telling a judge last October that he would otherwise kill again. He never appealed his sentence and even tried to bypass a mandatory state review in hopes of expediting his death.
Berget also has pleaded guilty in the killing but has appealed his death sentence. A third inmate, Michael Nordman, 47, was given a life sentence for providing materials used in the slaying.
Robert's execution could be the first of two in as many weeks. Donald Moeller, who has been on death row for over two decades, is scheduled to be put to death the week of Oct. 28 for the 1990 kidnapping, rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl.
South Dakota's last execution before Monday took place in 2007, and that was the first in the state in 60 years.
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