Death Row Inmate Uses Last Words Before Execution to Tell a Traffic Joke

A South Dakota murderer on death row used his last words before his execution by lethal injection to make a joke about traffic.

Rodney Scott Berget, 56, was sentenced to death for killing 63-year-old corrections officer Ronald Johnson in 2011. Berget beat Johnson to death with a pipe during a failed escape attempt the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls with another inmate.

Berget's multiple appeals against the death penalty failed and his sentence was carried out at the South Dakota State Penitentiary on Monday evening just hours after a final rejection by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Sorry for the delay, I got caught in traffic," Berget joked with state officials as he prepared for the lethal injection, Fox News reported. He also thanked people for their support, mentioning two by name, and made a peace sign with his hand.

KSFY reported that Berget's last meal was buttermilk pancakes, waffles, maple syrup, butter, breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs, French fries, Pepsi, and cherry nibs licorice.

Rodney Berget
Rodney Scott Berget, 56, was sentenced to die for the 2011 slaying of Ronald Johnson, 63, a corrections officer at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. South Dakota Department of Corrections

"The execution of inmate Rodney Berget was carried out this evening in accordance to state law," said a statement from South Dakota's Secretary of Corrections Denny Kaemingk.

"South Dakota Codified Law assigns the responsibility for carrying out the warrant of death sentence and offenders that are sentenced to death to the Department of Corrections. We take that responsibility very seriously.

"Director of Prison Operations and Chief Warden Darin Young and his staff spent extensive time preparing to ensure that the warrant of death sentence and execution was carried out in a professional, humane and dignified manner and in accordance to state law."

Before the murder of Johnson, Berget was already serving life without parole after a conviction for attempted murder and kidnapping in 2003.

In 2012, Eric Robert, the other inmate convicted of murdering Johnson, was executed. A third inmate involved in the escape attempt, Michael Nordman, was sentenced to life in prison for handing the other two a plastic wrap and the pipe used to kill the officer.

After killing Johnson in an area of the penitentiary where inmates worked on manual projects such as upholstery, Robert put on the officer's uniform.

Berget hid in a large box and Robert pushed it toward the prison gate but they were caught, according to the Fayette Commonwealth Attorney's Office.

He is only the fourth person to be executed in South Dakota since the state's reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. All four executions have taken place since 2007.

In 2000, Berget's older brother Roger Berget was executed in Oklahoma after spending 13 years on death row for murdering a man, The Argus Leader reported.

Death Row Inmate Uses Last Words Before Execution to Tell a Traffic Joke | U.S.