Feds drop appeal in Sjodin killing, still seek death penalty
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Federal prosecutors are dropping their appeal of a judge’s decision to overturn the death sentence for a Minnesota man convicted in the 2003 kidnapping and killing of Dru Sjodin, but they said they still intend to seek the death penalty when he is resentenced.
In a court filing Friday, prosecutors and defense attorneys for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. voluntarily agreed to dismiss the appeal. Interim U.S. Attorney Nicholas Chase told The Associated Press that the case will now be set for a resentencing, as the judge ordered, and “we are still seeking the death penalty.”
Rodriguez was convicted in 2006 of kidnapping Sjodin, a 22-year-old University of North Dakota student, resulting in her death. The Crookston man was sentenced to death in the first and only federal capital punishment case in North Dakota.
Last year, the judge who oversaw Rodriguez’s trial overturned the death penalty and ordered that a new sentencing phase be conducted, ruling that Rodriguez’s constitutional rights were violated.
Judge Ralph Erickson, who is now on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that the coroner gave misleading testimony, lawyers failed to outline a possible insanity defense and there was evidence of severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
Friday’s court filing does not explain why prosecutors dismissed their appeal. Chase had no further comment.
In order to appeal, prosecutors needed permission from the Biden administration. The Justice Department under President Joe Biden halted federal executions last summer, pending a review of the department’s policies and procedures.
If prosecutors would have been successful on appeal, the death penalty would have been reinstated. If they would have lost their appeal, the case would would have proceeded with resentencing, just as it is now.
Authorities said Rodriguez, a convicted sex offender, kidnapped Sjodin from the parking lot of a Grand Forks, North Dakota, shopping mall in November 2003 and drove her to Minnesota, where he killed her and left her body in a field near Crookston.
Sjodin’s kidnapping sparked days of massive searches, reshaped the way Minnesota handled sex offenders and led to the national sex offender registry being renamed for her. Sjodin was from Pequot Lakes, Minnesota.
Rodriguez’s conviction remains in place. He is currently locked up at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Associated Press writer Dave Kolpack contributed from Fargo, N.D.