AG Marty Jackley met with R.J. Johnson’s family yesterday to discuss their loss and the legal case against his murderers (I think calling them alleged would just be silly — even though they’ve pleaded not guilty).
The big question on the table is should the state of South Dakota seek the death penalty against the two “men” under arrest for the murder.
The Sioux Falls Dems had an interestingly timed forum last week featuring an anti-death penalty speaker. One of the main arguments that death penalty opponents use against the death penalty is the cost of the cases because of the extra requirements needed in death penalty cases as well as the appeals — they argue life without parole (LWOP) is cheaper punishment in the long run. That is the accepted view on costs — although there are now some contradicting studies suggesting that LWOP is actually more expensive than the death penalty. Should the cost be a consideration especially when SD is dealing with reduced revenues?
Another main consideration began with the AG meeting with the family…..what do the victims of this horrendous crime think would be appropriate. If the family is adamantly opposed to the death penalty — should the state respect their views? One of the other perspectives for the family that needs to be considered is the strain of the lengthy process involved in a death penalty case….it will be going on for years. For some, that extended pain is not worth it. (It may be too early for the Johnson family to know what legal action will help bring them some peace….they are only just starting to grieve)
This is the second case, since March 2009, of a law enforcement officer being murdered in the line of duty. The first case against Ethan Johns, who pleaded guilty to murdering Deputy Chad Mechels, avoided trial and the death penalty question with Johns sentenced to spending the rest of his life in prison.
How should the AG and the state of South Dakota proceed in the case against Rodney Berget and Eric Robert?