Prosecutors begin round 2 of arguing Rodriguez death penalty

October 31, 2021 GMT

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Prosecutors in North Dakota’s first and only death penalty case say defense attorneys are wrong by claiming the judge didn’t go far enough in explaining why he threw out the sentence for the man convicted of kidnapping and killing University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin.

Judge Ralph Erickson ruled in September that misleading testimony from the coroner, the failure of lawyers to outline the possibility of an insanity defense, and evidence of severe post-traumatic stress disorder had violated Rodriguez’s constitutional rights.

Erickson ordered a new sentencing phase be conducted.

Defense attorneys filed a motion in October questioning Erickson’s contention that Rodriguez’s intellectual disability could not be used as another factor to avoid capital punishment. The motion asks Erickson to reconsider his decision.

Prosecutors said in a response filed Friday that Rodriguez’s attorneys “flatly fail to establish the existence of a manifest error or newly discovered evidence” and “cannot satisfy the very stringent standard to warrant alteration or amendment.”


Rodriguez, a convicted sex offender from Crookston, Minnesota, kidnapped the 22-year-old Sjodin from a shopping mall in Grand Forks in 2003 and drove her to Minnesota, where he killed her and left her body in a field near Crookston.

Sjodin’s disappearance sparked days of massive searches, reshaped the way Minnesota handled sex offenders and led to the national sex offender registry being renamed for Sjodin. Rodriguez remains locked up at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.