Defense attorneys say Rodriguez jury made mistake
Fargo, N.D. — (AP) - Attorneys for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. say he deserves life in prison because jurors failed to properly weigh the evidence in unanimously voting for a death sentence.
Defense attorney Richard Ney, a Wichita, Kan., lawyer who specializes in death penalty cases, filed a motion late Monday asking U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson to sentence Rodriguez to life in prison without parole. Erickson did not immediately rule on the motion.
A federal jury of seven women and five men convicted Rodriguez, 53, of Crookston, Minn., of a charge of kidnapping resulting in the death of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, and then voted to sentence him to death.
A sentencing hearing has been set for Jan. 5. Ney said after the death penalty verdict that he would file a motion asking for a new trial.
In his motion this week, Ney said the death sentence was not appropriate because the jury found more than 20 factors that favored life in prison.
Jurors agreed with defense claims that Rodriguez suffers from a mental disorder or impairment, but rejected the idea that Rodriguez should be spared because of his childhood exposure to farm chemicals, his neurological or psychological condition and his offer to plead guilty in March.
Prosecutors outlined a handful of factors they believed favored the death penalty, including the jury's finding that Rodriguez intentionally killed Sjodin in an "especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner."
Ney and U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley were not available for comment Tuesday.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)