Transcript reveals killer's last words before execution


The last words of a prison inmate who killed a guard during an escape attempt have been revealed after he received a lethal injection.

Rodney Berget, of South Dakota, was sentenced to death for killing corrections officer Ronald Johnson in 2011.

Berget, 56, was pronounced dead 12 minutes after the lethal injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital began on October 29.

A transcript claims the 56-year-old groaned and pushed out his chest.

Rodney Berget, of South Dakota, was sentenced to death for killing corrections officer Ronald Johnson in 2011. Source: AAP (File pic)

“Is it supposed to feel like that?” were his last words. 

He drifted off and snored briefly before his eyes closed. 

The widow of the corrections officer killed by Berget, Lynette Johnson, witnessed the execution. She said afterward that her husband experienced “cruel and unusual punishment” but Berget’s lethal injection was “peaceful” and “sterile.” 

Berget was serving a life sentence for attempted murder and kidnapping when he and another inmate, Eric Robert, attacked Mr Johnson on April 12, 2011, in a part of the penitentiary known as Pheasantland Industries, where inmates work on upholstery, signs, furniture and other projects.

Mr Johnson turned 63 on the day that he was killed, and he was nearing the end of a nearly 24-year career as a guard.

South Dakota State Penitentiary. Source: Google Maps (File pic)

After Mr Johnson was beaten, Robert put on Johnson’s pants, hat and jacket and pushed a cart loaded with two boxes, one with Berget inside, toward the exits.  

They made it outside one gate but were stopped by another guard before they could complete their escape through a second gate. Berget admitted to his role in the slaying. 

Robert was executed on October 15, 2012. 

Berget’s mental status and death penalty eligibility played a role in court delays. Berget in 2016 appealed his death sentence, but later asked to withdraw the appeal against his lawyers’ advice.  

Berget wrote to a judge saying he thought the death penalty would be overturned and that he couldn’t imagine spending “another 30 years in a cage doing a life sentence”.

The transcript of his last moments shows Berget joked about a several-hour delay to his execution.

Lynette Johnson speaks after Rodney Berget’s execution. Source: AAP

He also thanked people who supported him and said he loved “Tammy,” ″sonny boy” and “Gigi.”  

Berget’s execution was the state’s fourth since reinstituting the death penalty in 1979. 

Jeff Larson, a lawyer for Berget, said the execution of his client was yet another violent act in the “vile” death penalty process.  

Mr Larson said it’s an embarrassment to the legal profession that “we try to solve problems in this manner.”