Shutdown leads to delay in ND death penalty appeal by RodriguezFARGO — Federal prosecutors handling the death penalty appeal by a man convicted of killing a University of North Dakota student should have more time to respond because of the government shutdown, a judge ruled Thursday.
By: Dave Kolpack, Associated Press,, INFORUM
FARGO — Federal prosecutors handling the death penalty appeal by a man convicted of killing a University of North Dakota student should have more time to respond because of the government shutdown, a judge ruled Thursday.
The government originally had an Oct. 15 deadline to answer the appeal by Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., convicted in 2005 of kidnapping and killing Dru Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lakes, Minn. Sjodin was abducted from the parking lot of a Grand Forks shopping mall in November 2003.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson extended the due date to Dec. 15.
The request for more time was based upon "the complexity of the claims and primarily due to the federal government shutdown," Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Reisenauer said in court documents filed Thursday.
The motion said attorneys and others in the U.S. attorney's office have been hampered by the shutdown and are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in limited circumstances.
"It's a massive undertaking and we had to send a lot of support staff home," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Jordheim, the lead prosecutor in the appeal, told The Associated Press.
U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon said earlier this week that the shutdown would result in "real consequences" to his office.
Attorneys for Rodriguez, who sits on death row at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., did not object to the extension.
Rodriguez was arrested in April 2004 after Sjodin's body was found in a ravine near Rodriguez's hometown of Crookston, Minn. Investigators say she was raped, beaten and stabbed. He was sentenced to death in 2006.
Defense attorneys in October 2011 filed a 298-page appeal that claims, among other things, that Rodriguez is mentally disabled and his lawyers did a poor job of defending him. The appeal asks that the sentence be thrown out or amended.
Sjodin's parents, Allan Sjodin and Linda Walker, attended the most recent hearing on the appeal in May. Walker said afterward that she and Allan Sjodin "were given the death sentence as well."
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