Federal judge orders new sentencing hearing for Alfonso Rodriguez

Jeanene Thompson and K. William Boyer
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

Fargo – Acting United States Attorney Nicholas Chase announced that a federal judge vacated the death sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing in United States of America v. Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr.

In November of 2003, Rodriguez kidnapped and murdered Dru Sjodin. In 2011, Rodriguez filed an action, arguing that his defense counsel had not provided effective representation on several grounds. The Honorable Ralph Erickson analyzed 21 separate arguments and rejected 19 of them. But, Judge Erickson concluded that Rodriguez’s defense trial counsel were ineffective in their investigatory efforts regarding a possible insanity defense and in challenging the specific method by which Rodriguez murdered Ms. Sjodin. The ruling does not affect the guilty verdict in the case, and Rodriguez remains in federal prison. The United States Department of Justice will evaluate the opinion and assess all possible options.

A federal jury handed down the death penalty verdict on September 22, 2006. Later, Judge Erickson denied Rodriguez’s motion for a new trial or resentencing. Rodriguez then appealed his conviction and death sentence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The Eighth Circuit heard oral argument in February 2009, and upheld both the guilty verdict and death sentence, in an opinion issued on September 22, 2009. Thereafter, Rodriguez sought review by the United States Supreme Court, which rejected his request.