Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. Another step on the long road to justice

Started by Rick4404, June 06, 2013, 09:47:53 PM

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June 06, 2013, 09:47:53 PM Last Edit: June 06, 2013, 10:05:45 PM by Rick4404
The federal death penalty case of Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. took another step on the long road to justice last week. 

Attorneys for Rodriguez, who sits on federal death row at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., is no closer to a death warrant now than when he was convicted and sentenced to death six years ago.  Rodriguez was sentenced to death in February of 2007; when he was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Dru Sjodin, a University of North Dakota student, as she was leaving her job at a shopping mall in Grand Forks, N.D. 

Rodriguez was convicted of first kidnapping her by abducting her from the parking lot, then bludgeoning her to death in his car, and then dumping her body in a culvert nearby his family's farm near the nearby town of Crookston, Minn. which is about an hour east of the Grand Forks, N.D.-East Grand Forks, Minn. area.

What made this case a federal case instead of a state case was that this involved Rodriguez abducting Sjodin, forcing her into his car against her will and driving her across the state line into Minnesota, where it is alleged that he raped and bludgeoned her to death. Had he driven west into North Dakota and committed the murder, then this likely would have been a state case, since he would not have crossed state lines with her.  North Dakota's maximum sentence for class AA felony murder (the equivalent of first degree murder in other states) is life in prison without possibility of parole. 

I'm sure that these were among the reasons why law enforcement officials in both Minnesota and North Dakota quickly handed this case over to the feds.  Since neither Minnesota or North Dakota has a death penalty, I'm sure law enforcement on both sides of the river (the two states are bordered by the Red River of the North); wanted to make certain that Rodriguez would get everthing that he had coming to him.

With the federal death penalty in limbo as it is, it isn't likely that Rodriguez will be receiving a death warrant anytime soon.  The motions hearing was a part of his latest appeal.  It is agreed by most legal experts that this is Rodriguez's and his attorneys last shot.  If they lose this round of appeals, it is likely ball game over for Rodriguez.

Here are a couple of stories that appeared last week here in Fargo. 

Kathleen Wrigley, who is the wife of North Dakota's Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, has personal experiences with murders and the death penalty.  Her brother who was a Philadelphia police officer, was murdered 22 years ago by convicted murderer Edward Bracey, who remains on Pennsylvania's death row.  Kathleen Wrigley's husband, of course, was serving as the presidentially-appointed U.S. Attorney for North Dakota, and was the lead prosecutor in the Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. case back in 2007 when Rodriguez was tried and convicted in the first federal death penalty case in North Dakota history ... and one of only a handful of death penalty cases that had ever been tried in North Dakota in the entire history of the state.

North Dakota has no death penalty and the last state execution was conducted some 108 years ago in 1905.  There was a death penalty in North Dakota up until it was abolished in 1973, following the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Furman v. Georgia case.  At the time, the only two death penalty eligible crimes in the state were if a prisoner killed someone within the walls of the prison -- be it a prison employee, a fellow prisoner or whoever.  The other was if a prisoner escaped from custody of the prison and killed someone during the escape or while on the run.  The law never had to be used.     


Attorneys for Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. were back in U.S. District Court in Fargo, N.D. last week for a motions hearing. 

This past Tuesday's motion hearing, part of Rodriguez's appeal of his federal death sentence imposed in February 2007 by U.S. Judge Ralph Erickson, focused on prosecutors' seeking notes from medical doctors hired by Rodriguez's defense to examine him in 2011 and 2012, as well as notes from a defense expert who in the past year or so interviewed family and friends who knew Rodriguez before he was 18 and first went to jail for attacking women.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Reisenauer told Erickson it appeared defense attorneys were refusing to turn over information simply to delay the process. "And frankly, it's been prolonged quite a while already," said Reisenauer, who helped prosecute the 2006 murder trial.

The prosecutor said Rodriguez's attorneys should turn over doctors' notes "instead of playing this hopscotch-around game."

North Dakota's "Second Lady," Kathleen Wrigley, wife of the state's Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley, has a personal experience with the death penalty. 

By Robin Huebner,
Forum Communications Company
Published May 25 2013

Kathleen Wrigley has lived through two death penalty cases in her family

FARGO - Many know her husband as the prosecutor of North Dakota's only federal death-penalty case, one of the most horrific crimes in this region's history.

What many don't know is that while then-U.S. Attorney for North Dakota Drew Wrigley was prosecuting Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. for Dru Sjodin's abduction and murder, Kathleen Wrigley was embroiled in her own very personal death penalty ordeal.

Edward Bracey, the man who 22 years ago killed Kathleen's only sibling - rookie Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Boyle - still sits on death row in a maximum-security Pennsylvania prison.

While most of us have no firsthand involvement in a death penalty case, Kathleen has lived it both as a victim's family member and as the wife of a death penalty prosecutor.

Kathleen and Drew Wrigley lived in Fargo while he was a U.S. attorney and moved to Bismarck after he became the state's lieutenant governor.

They met in the mid-1990s in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, where he worked as an assistant attorney and she as a victim's advocate after the trial for her brother's killer ended.

"I was very impressed with her strength in the face of that," said Drew Wrigley, who was not involved in prosecuting Bracey.

Drew describes both himself and Kathleen as "law and order" people.

Both say the two death penalty cases in their lives are distinctly different and separate.

"We don't talk about them intersecting," said Drew.

However, to outside observers, the parallels are striking.

Both killers want their death sentences overturned based on mental deficiencies.

Both Bracey and Rodriguez murdered their victims not long after being let out of prison.


Valley News Live talks to federal prosecutor Keith Reisenauer about the latest movement in the Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. case ... Live feed available, or on delay.

Tonight at 10 p.m. (Central Time).

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