ND Death Penalty Appeal Could Drag For 3 Years

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge has given prosecutors until July to respond to a request for a new trial or sentencing hearing from a Minnesota man sentenced to die for kidnapping and killing a North Dakota college student, and a legal expert said it could be years before the case is resolved.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. was convicted in 2005 of raping, beating and stabbing University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin and sentenced the next year to die. It was North Dakota’s first federal death penalty case and led to tougher laws for sex offenders.

Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lakes, Minn., was abducted from the parking lot of a Grand Forks shopping mall on Nov. 22, 2003, after talking with her boyfriend on her cell phone. Rodriguez, 58, of Crookston, Minn., was arrested on Dec. 1, 2003. Sjodin’s body was discovered in a ravine near Crookston on April 17, 2004.

Her mother, Linda Walker, attended a federal hearing in the case last week and said afterward it was difficult to listen to the claims in Rodriguez’s appeal.

His lawyers filed a 298-page federal habeas corpus petition in October asking for a new trial or sentencing hearing. A habeas corpus petition asserts a prisoner is being held without sufficient evidence and demands his or her release.

Rodriguez’s petition claims his defense lawyers, who were handpicked by the presiding federal judge, were incompetent.

“In some ways it’s like a really good doctor who has done an operation, but something has gone wrong,” said Joseph Daly, a Hamline University law professor who has followed the Rodriguez case and participated in death penalty appeals. “You’re going to take a microscope to that even though most of us would say, ‘Hey, that’s a great doctor.'”

He predicted U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson will try to keep the arguments narrow, but there will be testimony, briefs and rulings.

“It’s not a retrial, but it’s going to require witnesses and experts and it’s going to take time,” said Daly, who thought the matter wouldn’t be wrapped up until 2015.

If Rodriguez loses, he’ll likely file another round of motions with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, Daly said.

The lawyers in the case met for the first time in court last week. Erickson and Keith Reisenauer, an assistant U.S. attorney, agreed on a July 2 deadline for the government to respond to the petition. Then the defense has until Sept. 4 to respond to prosecutors’ arguments.

Daly said he understood that the case seemed like it was moving slowly.

“The victims want this to end. They wake up thinking about it. They read about it. And it just bothers them,” he said. “But on the other hand, we have this process because we have this sense of fundamental fairness in our society. We’re not going to take someone’s life easily and readily. We just don’t do it.”
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Sam I am

    Fry his arse.

  • Bruce Wayne

    or we could spend some tax payer dollars and teach you how to spell

    • sarn

      We already tried that with the public school system and apparently it didn’t work.

  • asdf

    Because if they fried his brains out and someone else came foreward to confess or they found evidence that he was innocent, then you’d “wast” tax money on frying the brains of an innocent man.

    I’m not saying he’s innocent I’m just saying.

    • jkl;

      Ok – I’ll bite: Al confessed to the crime and led the investigators to Dru’s body which Al buried in a river bed. BTW, lethal injection isn’t “brain frying”; it’s a mix of 3 drugs to paralyze the body’s muscles and stop the heart beating. Too good of a way to go for Al after what he put Dru through. Just saying…

  • Susan

    He will never see freedom again. This entire case sickens me and the fact that dirty dwarf was ever set free to reoffend and the last time kill is sickening.

    • Ace

      I agree with you. He’s been proven guilty and has no right to his life. He didn’t give Dru a chance to live out her life. He already had appeals. There’s not one reason he should live another day.

  • jkl;

    … Or, we could take a page from Sharia Law and hold an informal trial with some “tribal elders” in Fargo, sentence Al to death, and then take Al out back into the soccer stadium in Fargo and behead him after noon prayers on Friday afternoon. Works pretty well in Saudi Arabia – why wouldn’t it work also for Al? Let’s just pee on the Constitution like our Marines pee on the Taliban. Yeah!

  • jean

    by the time he’s put to death it will be the year 2026 :(

  • anti bachmann

    my god bring him to my house ill do it for free

  • angus

    Hey, guess what? A comment putting blame on CCO’s boy Timmy the Twerp and I get censored. What a surprise

  • OLY

    We have to many appeals give them one then be done with it. Yes you are going to make A mistake once and awhile but that’s life. A person would not be in that position if they were not on the shady side to begin with. The tax dollars wasted on this stuff is crazy. Hell the state thinks it needs more money for our hunting and fishing licenses lets make A season for some of these kind of predators.

  • angus

    Why was he released from the State Hospital at St Peter on parole? The board was told by hospital personnel that he had NOT responded to treatment and he would reoffend. However, Gov. Timmy the Twerp wanted to cut expenses and he was one of many that was released. The administration also put sex offenders in housing with vulnerable adults until that hit the media.

    We put him in a position to reoffend when it was known he could very well do so and then want to execute him. Legal – yes. Moral – no. Ethical – no.

  • I like Texas

    The last time the feds executed someone,it was 2003. When he’s done with his appeals,I’m sure he’ll join some of the others on death row claiming the needle is cruel and unusual and thus illegal. I say 1 appeal and thats it!

  • Filling the lethal injection needle up North

    Give the prisoners time and they will “take care” of him. He must be in maximum security or in isolation otherwise I’m betting he’d be gone by now.
    Didn’t take them long to take care of Dahmer…

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