KATIE ZERR: Berget doesn’t deserve any more chances


How often have we heard that someone who has committed a terrible crime has either found God and repented while sitting in jail waiting for trial or has seen the error in his or her ways and wants to spend the rest of their lives helping others?

We are a very forgiving society, especially if that person has some how garnered fame, whether it be on the field of sport or the stage.

They can beat their significant other, inflicting serious injury and still sell out concerts and sell millions of CDs. They can kill someone while driving under the influence and still play professional sports. They can obstruct a murder investigation and become a hero to their fans.

We are told throughout our lives that everyone deserves a second chance. That is true in some cases, but not all.

This is especially true in the case when the lifelong actions of the person pleading for another chance don’t jive with life they proclaim they will lead.

Earlier this week death-row inmate Rodney Berget, convicted of murder for his role in the killing of South Dakota State Penitentiary guard R.J. Johnson, requested a new sentencing hearing so the relationship with his new-found son and grandchildren can be presented to a jury as evidence against execution.

He wants to be able to pursue a relationship with a son and grandchildren he didn’t know he had. He wants the State of South Dakota to allow this information to influence his sentencing.

Talk about the ultimate second chance.

For those who felt a little tug on their heartstrings after hearing this story, they need to know why Berget was in prison in the first place.

In 2003, Berget tried to kill his ex-girlfriend and the man she was living with at the time. He went to their home and shot the boyfriend at point blank range and then pursued the woman into her bedroom and shot her.

He then went to a convenience store and kidnapped a female clerk, raped her, held her hostage and led police on a high-speed chase, putting other lives in danger.

But now, he and his lawyer have filed court documents that report on Feb. 9, 2012, just three days after he was sentenced to death for killing R.J. Johnson, a father and grandfather, the inmate learned he has family.

The documents report that Berget has now established a ‘meaningful relationship’ with his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

So now he thinks that he deserves a new hearing and that information about bonding with his family should be included in the information before a jury.

He wants the State of South Dakota to spend more money so that he can have a chance at life with a family he never knew existed until now.

One can only hope that there is a loud cry of “hogwash” from the populace and the justice system.

What a crock. This man who tried to take the life of two people, raped and terrorized another and ultimately had a hand in the death of man who was by all reports a good father, a great grandfather and provider for his family all of his life, wants us to feels sorry for him. He wants us to let him live off of this state for the rest of his life while he plays the role that through his actions R.J. Johnson can no longer play to his family.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley responded to the request with this statement.

“If family and fatherhood was such a meaningful consideration to Berget, it should have deterred him from robbing R.J. Johnson’s son and daughter of their father. Where Berget sees redemptive mitigation evidence in this newfound-son scenario, the state sees only further aggravating evidence of selfishness and failure to accept his responsibilities in life.”

Enough is enough. Berget deserves to be executed for the life he led and for taking the life of another.

He has had more than his share of chances.



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