Published on 10/15/12 by Dailymail.co.uk — South Dakota’s first execution in five years – and only the second in more than half a century – is scheduled for Monday night.
At 10 p.m. this evening, Eric Robert, 50, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. Last April, he pleaded guilty to killing a prison guard Ronald Johnson during a failed escape attempt.
For religious reasons, Roberts is spending his final 40 hours fasting and as a result his last meal was on Saturday night when he ate Moose Track ice cream – vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cups and Moose Track Fudge.
Eric Robert is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Monday evening.
According to his lawyer, Mark Kadi, the fast is religious in nature with 40 hours serving as a metaphor for the 40 day fast of Christ in the Bible.
Opponents of the death penalty are expected to begin a vigil outside the prison at eight p.m. Any last-minute appeal or stay of execution is unlikely, as Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced last week that he would not intervene.
Warden Doug Weber will accompany Robert into the execution chamber this evening, ask him for his last words and then give the signal to the execution team. The Minnehaha County coroner will be present to declare Robert dead.
None of Robert’s friends or family are scheduled to attend, said Kadi.
‘He’s been very calm,’ Kadi told UPI.com. ‘I’ve seen him angry and stressed out, and that’s not what he is right now.’
Robert was serving an 80-year sentence for a kidnapping conviction when he and Rodney Berget, 50, tried to escape from Sioux Falls prison. The two men attacked prison guard Ronald Johnson with a pipe and covered his mouth with plastic wrap.
Wearing Johnson’s uniform, Robert approached the prison’s west gate pushing a cart loaded with Berget hidden in a box.
As the men approached the gate, the guards became suspicious. There was a struggle, Robert beat one guard; other guards then quickly arrived and detained both inmates.
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Johnson’s body was found on the floor in a Pheasantland Industries building, where inmates worked on upholstery, signs, custom furniture and other projects. Johnson was killed on his 63rd birthday.
Months later, Robert told a judge that his only regret was that he hadn’t killed more guards. He then asked to be put to death, saying he would kill again.
Prison guard Ronald Johnson, left, was murdered by Eric Robert and Rodney Berget, right, on his 63rd birthday.
Robert never appealed his sentence and even tried to bypass a mandatory state review in hopes of expediting his death.
Berget also 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 murder.
South Dakota’s last execution took place in 2007, and that had been the first in the state for 60 years. Only five inmates are currently on death row, including Robert and Donald Moeller, 60, who is expected to be executed later this month after he asked for appeals on his behalf to be dropped.
‘You have few people on death row, few executions, and then you have this coincidence of cases coming all at once,’ said Richard Dieter, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. ‘When people waive appeals, their cases start to move more quickly.’
Moeller is scheduled to be put to death the week of Oct. 28 for the 1990 kidnapping, rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl. Robert has been on death row only for about a year, Moeller has been there for more than two decades.
A judge last week granted Moeller’s request that appeals to stay his execution be dropped. ‘I killed,’ Moeller said. ‘I deserve to be killed.’