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Ponder tosses death sentence in slaying of N. Dakota student

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Ponder tosses death sentence in slaying of N. Dakota student

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2003 file photo, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., left, is helped into a sheriff's car after waiving extradition at the Polk County Courthouse in Crookston, Minn. A federal judge on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, threw out the death sentence for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr convicted in the 2003 slaying of Dru Sjodin, a North Dakota college student. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt File)

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FILE – In this Dec. 3, 2003 file picture, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., left, is helped into a sheriff’s car after waiving extradition at the Polk County Courthouse in Crookston, Minn. A federal decide on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, threw out the death sentence for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr convicted in the 2003 slaying of Dru Sjodin, a North Dakota college student. (AP Represent/Ann Heisenfelt File)

FILE – In this Dec. 3, 2003 file picture, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., left, is helped into a sheriff’s car after waiving extradition at the Polk County Courthouse in Crookston, Minn. A federal decide on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, threw out the death sentence for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr convicted in the 2003 slaying of Dru Sjodin, a North Dakota college student. (AP Represent/Ann Heisenfelt File)

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A federal decide has thrown out the death sentence for a man convicted in the 2003 slaying of a North Dakota college student, saying modern proof reveals that the scientific examiner became “guessing” on the stand and protection attorneys failed to adequately explore mental successfully being proof.

Ponder Ralph Erickson dominated Friday that misleading testimony from the coroner, the failure of attorneys to outline the likelihood of an insanity protection, and proof of severe post-hectic stress dysfunction had violated Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.’s constitutional rights. Erickson ordered a brand modern sentencing segment be conducted.

Worn U.S. Attorney and lead prosecutor Drew Wrigley, who tried what became North Dakota’s first and totally federal death penalty case, mentioned he disagreed with Erickson’s criticism of Rodriguez’s trial attorneys. Richard Ney, a renown capital punishment authorized professional, and Richard Hoy contain been handpicked by Erickson to defend Rodriguez.

“I will’t disagree with the court’s characterizations of the protection counsel — of having been inadequately ready, inadequately investigating, inadequately faulty-examining and no topic else is mentioned at some stage in the opinion — strenuously passable,” Wrigley mentioned. “These are attorneys who somebody would want defending them.”

Rodriguez has been on death row at a federal jail for virtually twenty years in the death of Dru Sjodin, a Minnesota girl who became kidnapped from a Monumental Forks mall parking lot in November 2003.

Rodriguez, a sex offender, became arrested the following month. Despite several broad searches, Sjodin’s body wasn’t stumbled on except the following April terminate to Crookston, Minnesota.

Sjodin’s abduction and slaying induced a dramatic shift in the ability Minnesota handles sex offenders, with a drastic increase in the volume that contain been committed indefinitely for treatment even after their jail sentences had sprint their course. And the nationwide sex offender public registry, intended to present the public information on the whereabouts of registered sex offenders, became renamed for Sjodin.

Acting U.S. Attorney Cleave Hotfoot issued a impart noting Rodriguez’s responsible verdict remains in location. Hotfoot mentioned the Department of Justice became weighing its choices.

Eric Montroy, Rodriguez’s public defender, failed to instantly reply to a phone message seeking commentary.

In a 232-internet page ruling, Erickson wrote that Ramsey County Scientific Examiner Michael McGee’s testimony had been “unreliable, misleading and inaccurate” concerning the motive of Sjodin’s death. He also wrote that Rodriguez’s attorneys did a disservice to Rodriguez by choosing to restrict a mental successfully being evaluation of their consumer that can perhaps well also contain price him a conceivable insanity protection.

“Whereas it’s beyond question that Rodriguez kidnapped and murdered Sjodin, the proof now in the file has led the Court docket to remain that errors contain been made that violate the United States Constitution such that due task demands a brand modern penalty segment trial be held,” Erickson wrote.

Erickson referred particularly to McGee’s interpretation of sexual assault proof. The decide mentioned McGee offered opinions during trial that weren’t in his post-mortem experiences, particularly that semen became stumbled on during his examination of the body and that the seminal deposit had came about within 24 to 36 hours of Sjodin’s death.

Original proof demonstrates that McGee became “guessing” and his opinions weren’t scientifically supported by literature or any other expert who testified at trial, Erickson mentioned.

“Few trials are ideal. Admittedly, even fewer trials are riddled with error because expert testimony is later confirmed to be so unreliable that had the total circumstances been identified it could perhaps well well contain been inadmissible,” Erickson wrote. ”But, these post-conviction relief proceedings contain uncovered credible proof demonstrating that in the trial of this case, the truth became obscured.”

McGee failed to instantly reply to a phone message left by The Associated Press.

Wrigley mentioned he spoke to Sjodin’s mom, Linda Walker, and father, Allan Sjodin, over the weekend and mentioned their response “became precisely what you will imagine; I’ll go it at that.”

Erickson, who is now a decide on the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court docket of Appeals, choked up when he handed down the death sentence as determined by a jury in September 2006 and known as it basically the most sophisticated day of his life.

In October 2007, Erickson denied the main of several appeals in the case, saying that the jury precisely determined the case on the price of every component for and against the death penalty, instead of “sheer numbers.” Stated Erickson, “The proof is passable to sustain a sentence of death.′

Rodriguez later lost an allure with the Eighth Circuit in 2009 and that same one year the U.S. Supreme Court docket refused to listen to his case. Protection attorneys in October 2011 filed a federal habeas corpus motion, opinion to be the last step in the appeals task.

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Ponder tosses death sentence in slaying of N. Dakota student