Convicted killer Eric Robert, 50, was executed at 10:24 p.m. Monday in Sioux Falls, just after saying is final words to the warden, "It is done."
Department of Corrections Spokesperson Michael Winder announced Robert's death just before 11 pm Monday. He said Roberts was taken from his cell at about 9:30, at 9:32 he was placed on the table and he was restrained at 9:35.
The widow the man Roberts was sentenced to death for murdering, Lynette Johnson, spoke after winder. She said while this execution cannot bring RJ back, the world is safer.
"But we do know that the employees at the Dept. of Corrections and the public in general will be just a little bit safer now," Lynette said.
Two media members were invited to witness the execution. They said Robert said something to the the warden, and finally said, "It is done."
Robert, 50, was executed for the slaying of Corrections Officer Ronald "RJ" Johnson on April 12, 2011. Robert and accomplice Rodney Berget killed Johnson during an escape attempt at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.
Robert was initially serving an 80-year sentence for kidnapping out of Meade County.
While the two were on laundry duty, Robert and Berget beat Johnson with a pipe and covered his head with a plastic bag. The pipe and plastic bag were supplied by inmate Michael Nordman, who is now serving a life sentence for his role in the killing. Robert took Johnson's clothes while Berget climbed into a box and the two proceeded in their escape. They were ultimately stopped by a guard who called for backup.
Robert and Berget were charged with First Degree Murder of Ronald Johnson. Robert initially pleaded not guilty, but in September 2011 he appeared in Minnehaha County Court and admitted to Judge Bradley Zell that he murdered Johnson.
"I need no more time. I do not need more time to make that decision. I'm comfortable with the judge alone making that decision on life or death," Robert said.
Robert's sentencing hearings were held in late October 2011 and the most memorable part of that sentencing is also the most painful to hear as Johnson's widow, Lynette, addressed the court about what life has been like without her husband.
You decided to take him away from me! Who do you think you are? You're a coward and without a friend or a pipe you're nothing! Please be consistent. Please be consistent with the death penalty! Please, they'll hurt again," Lynette said.
One day later, on October 27th, Judge Zell handed down his decision.
"The severity of the attack exhibits a mind of extreme depravity and vengeance. All of Robert's hatred, frustration or ill will was poured out on RJ the morning of April 12, 2011," Judge Zell said.
In June, prior to the mandatory appeal of Robert's death sentence before the South Dakota Supreme Court, Robert wrote a three-paged letter to the Associated Press. In the letter, Robert expressed that he did not want the court to delay his death sentence. Robert wrote that his execution would bring justice to the Johnson family stating in the letter, "I deserve to die."
On August 16, the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld Robert's death sentence. In the Supreme Court's opinion, Justice David Gilbertson wrote the sentence was upheld but not because of Robert's will to die. He said South Dakota does not participate in state assisted suicide.
"This was not merely an escape attempt on the spur of the moment where events spiraled out of control. Here the record reflects that Robert had been planning his escape attempt, which included the murder of a corrections officer, for well over a month. His planning stage included obtaining the lead pipe eventually used to kill Johnson," Chief Justice David Gilbertson wrote.
Five days later, South Dakota Attorney General asked a judge to set Robert's execution for the week of October 14, and October 12, South Dakota State Penitentiary Warden Doug Weber scheduled the execution for October 15, 2012 at 10 p.m.
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