Wife of slain correctional officer holds prison officials respon - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Wife of slain correctional officer holds prison officials responsible in court

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A federal judge has heard from both sides in a case to determine if the South Dakota Department of Corrections is responsible for the murder of prison guard Ronald "RJ" Johnson.

The court hasn't reached a decision yet. There's a few things the judge could decide with this case.

He could continue to hear the case in federal court, send it to a lower court, or dismiss it altogether.

 RJ Johnson's wife Lynette and her attorneys left federal court Wednesday. They now await the judge's ruling on her case.

Prison inmates Rodney Berget and Eric Robert killed her husband, a correctional officer, during a failed prison escape in April 2011.

Robert was executed in October 2012, while Berget still sits on death row.

But Lynette Johnson believes the carelessness of prison administrators also makes them responsible for her husband's death and that they need to be held accountable.

Johnson's attorneys argued the inmates worked the system by staging a hunger strike which got them moved out of maximum security into a different area of the prison with less supervision.

Her attorneys believe this allowed Berget and Robert to carry out their murderous escape plan.

But the state's defense team argued in court that Berget and Robert weren't moved because of their hunger strikes, and that the two inmates had been out of the maximum security unit for years without any serious problems.

They also stated that there's no evidence the administration could have known Berget and Robert would pose a direct threat to prison staff or that they believed they were dangerous and ignored the warning signs.

Because of that, the defense asked for the case to be dismissed.

To continue hear the case in federal court, the judge will have to decide if state employees knowingly put prison staff at risk, which would violate Johnson's constitutional rights.
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