Two Brothers, Two Death Sentences
Published: May 27, 2012
Two Brothers, Two Death Sentences, Over 25 years and 600 miles separated the crimes of Rodney and Roger Berget.Rodney Berget lives in a single cell on South Dakota’s death row, rarely leaving the tiny room where he awaits execution for bludgeoning a prison guard to death with a pipe during an attempted escape.
For Berget’s immediate family, his fate is somewhat familiar. He is the second member of the clan to be sentenced to death. His older brother was convicted in 1987 of killing a man for his car. Roger Berget spent 13 years on Oklahoma’s death row until his execution in 2000 at age 39.
The Bergets are not the first pair of siblings to be condemned. Record books reveal at least three cases of brothers who conspired to commit crimes and both got the death penalty. But these two stand out because their crimes were separated by more than 600 miles and 25 years.
“To have it in different states in different crimes is some sort of commentary on the family there,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks death penalty trends.
The siblings’ journey from the poverty of their South Dakota childhood to stormy, crime-ridden adult lives shows the far-reaching effects of a damaged upbringing – and the years of havoc wrought by two men who developed what the courts called a wanton disregard for human life.
Rodney Berget is scheduled to die later this year, potentially ending the odyssey that began when the two boys were born into a family that already had four kids.
A former prison principal described Rodney as a “throwaway kid” who never had a chance at a productive life. A lawyer for Roger recalled him as an “ugly duckling” with little family support.
The boys were born after the family moved from their failed farm in rural South Dakota to Aberdeen, a city about 20 miles away. Roger arrived in 1960. Rodney came along two years later. (AP)
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