South Dakota executes inmate

SIOUX FALLS — South Dakota yesterday executed an inmate convicted of beating a prison guard to death during a failed escape attempt, in the state’s first execution in five years.

Eric Robert, 50, was put to death by lethal injection at the state prison in Sioux Falls. He was pronounced dead at 10:24 p.m., the corrections department said.

Robert’s execution came 18 months after authorities say he and fellow inmate Rodney Berget beat guard Ronald Johnson to death with a lead pipe and attacked other officers in an escape attempt on Johnson’s birthday in April 2011.

Johnson’s widow, Lynette Johnson, witnessed the execution. She said afterward that her family did not want people to forget “how kind, how wonderful and caring” her husband was.

“We know this execution tonight is not going to bring back my husband to me, it is not going to bring our children’s father back to them, our six grandchildren’s ‘papa’ back to them, but we do know that the employees of the department of corrections and the public in general will be just a little bit safer now,” she said.

Robert pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the killing of Johnson, waived a jury for sentencing, told the judge during sentencing that he would kill again if he did not receive the death penalty and opposed efforts to halt his execution. (Reuters)

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