A South Dakota inmate who killed a correctional officer seven years ago during a failed prison escape on the guard’s 63rd birthday was put to death Monday evening, marking the state’s first execution since 2012.

Rodney Berget, 56, received a lethal injection of an undisclosed drug for the 2011 slaying of Ronald “R.J.” Johnson, who was beaten with a pipe and had his head covered in plastic wrap at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. Berget’s execution was the state’s fourth since it reinstituted the death penalty in 1979.

It originally was to be carried out at 1:30 p.m. CDT, but was delayed for hours while the U.S. Supreme Court weighed a last-minute legal bid to block it. Berget joked in his last words about the wait, saying, “Sorry for the delay, I got caught in traffic.”

FILE - In this April 13, 2011, file photo, Rodney Berget, who was convicted of killing a Sioux Falls prison guard during an escape attempt, is escorted to court in Sioux Falls, S.D. Berget is to be put to death for the 2011 slaying of Ronald
FILE – In this April 13, 2011, file photo, Rodney Berget, who was convicted of killing a Sioux Falls prison guard during an escape attempt, is escorted to court in Sioux Falls, S.D. Berget is to be put to death for the 2011 slaying of Ronald “R.J.” Johnson, who was beaten with a pipe and had his head covered in plastic wrap at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. It will be the state’s first execution since 2012 and just its fourth since reinstating the death penalty in 1979. (Elisha Page/Argus Leader via AP, File)

He was soft-spoken and appeared emotional. He also thanked people for their support and mentioned two by name.

“I love you, and I’ll meet you out there,” he said while appearing to give a peace sign with his left hand.

Toni Schafer hugs her brother Jesse Johnson, left, while their mother, Lynette Johnson, third from left, speaks to the media after Rodney Berget is executed Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D. Berget was put to death for killing prison guard Ronald
Toni Schafer hugs her brother Jesse Johnson, left, while their mother, Lynette Johnson, third from left, speaks to the media after Rodney Berget is executed Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D. Berget was put to death for killing prison guard Ronald “R.J.” Johnson in a failed escape seven years ago, marking the state’s first execution since 2012. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)

After the administering of the drug started at 7:25 p.m., Berget groaned and pushed out his chest. He drifted off and snored briefly before his eyes closed. He was pronounced dead at 7:37 p.m. CDT.

Johnson’s widow, Lynette Johnson, who witnessed the execution, said her husband experienced “cruel and unusual punishment” but Berget’s lethal injection was “peaceful” and “sterile.”

FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2012, file photo, a portrait commemorating Ronald
FILE – In this Oct. 15, 2012, file photo, a portrait commemorating Ronald “R.J.” Johnson hangs in the training center of the South Dakota Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D. South Dakota has set Monday as the execution date for Rodney Berget, one of two inmates convicted in the 2011 killing of prison guard Johnson during a failed escape attempt at the state prison in Sioux Falls. The other inmate, Eric Robert was executed by lethal injection in 2012. (AP Photo/Amber Hunt, File)

“What’s embedded in my mind is the crime scene. Ron laid in a pool of blood. His blood was all over that crime scene,” she said. “That’s cruel and unusual punishment.”

She sized down her husband’s wedding ring and now wears it next to her own; she keeps his watch — its hands frozen at the time he was attacked — in a clear case next to photos above her fireplace.

Lynette Johnson addresses the media with her family after Rodney Berget is executed Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D. Berget was put to death for killing Johnson's husband, a prison guard, on his 63rd birthday in a failed escape seven years ago, marking the state’s first execution since 2012. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)
Lynette Johnson addresses the media with her family after Rodney Berget is executed Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D. Berget was put to death for killing Johnson’s husband, a prison guard, on his 63rd birthday in a failed escape seven years ago, marking the state’s first execution since 2012. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)

Berget was serving a life sentence for attempted murder and kidnapping when he and another inmate, Eric Robert, attacked Johnson on April 12, 2011, in a part of the penitentiary known as Pheasantland Industries, where inmates work on upholstery, signs, furniture and other projects. After Johnson was beaten, Robert put on Johnson’s pants, hat and jacket and pushed a cart loaded with two boxes, one with Berget inside, toward the exits. They made it outside one gate but were stopped by another guard before they could complete their escape through a second gate. Berget admitted to his role in the slaying.

Robert was executed on Oct. 15, 2012. The state also put an inmate to death on Oct. 30, 2012, but that was the last one before Berget’s.

Lynette Johnson said the executions held Robert and Berget accountable, and she asked that people not feel bad for the men. She spoke at a guard training academy that was named for her husband and dedicated one year after his death.

Elaine Engelgau holds a sign outside of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D., before Rodney Berget is executed Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for the execution of the South Dakota man who killed a prison guard in a failed escape seven years ago after a last-minute legal bid to block Berget's death delayed his execution for hours past its scheduled time. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)
Elaine Engelgau holds a sign outside of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D., before Rodney Berget is executed Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for the execution of the South Dakota man who killed a prison guard in a failed escape seven years ago after a last-minute legal bid to block Berget’s death delayed his execution for hours past its scheduled time. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)

Johnson turned 63 on the day that he was killed, and he was nearing the end of a nearly 24-year career as a guard.

Berget’s mental status and death penalty eligibility played a role in court delays. Berget in 2016 appealed his death sentence, but later asked to withdraw the appeal against his lawyers’ advice. Berget wrote to a judge saying he thought the death penalty would be overturned and that he couldn’t imagine spending “another 30 years in a cage doing a life sentence.”

Mary Ihli prays the rosary outside of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D., before Rodney Berget is executed Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for the execution of a South Dakota man who killed a prison guard in a failed escape seven years ago after a last-minute legal bid to block Rodney Berget's death delayed his execution for hours past its scheduled time. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)
Mary Ihli prays the rosary outside of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D., before Rodney Berget is executed Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for the execution of a South Dakota man who killed a prison guard in a failed escape seven years ago after a last-minute legal bid to block Rodney Berget’s death delayed his execution for hours past its scheduled time. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)

The Department of Corrections planned to use a single drug to execute Berget. Policy calls for either sodium thiopental or pentobarbital. Pentobarbital was used in the state’s last two executions.

South Dakota has not had issues with obtaining the drugs it needs, as some other states have, perhaps because the state shrouds some details in secrecy. Lawmakers in 2013 approved hiding the identities of its suppliers.

Toni Schafer, daughter of Ronald
Toni Schafer, daughter of Ronald “R.J.” Johnson, addresses the media with her family after Rodney Berget is executed Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D. Berget was put to death for killing Johnson, a prison guard, on his 63rd birthday in a failed escape seven years ago, marking the state’s first execution since 2012. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)

Berget was the second member of his family to be executed. His older brother, Roger, was executed in Oklahoma in 2000 for killing a man to steal his car.

Opponents of the death penalty gathered for a vigil Monday outside the South Dakota prison, some joining in a circle and singing. Sioux Falls resident Elaine Engelgau, 62, who sat behind a sign attached to a cross reading: “JESUS: HE WITHOUT SIN, CAST THE FIRST STONE,” told The Associated Press that she prayed the execution would be halted and for Berget’s soul.

Media witnesses Dave Kolpack, from left, Don Jorgensen and Danielle Ferguson talk to the media after Rodney Berget is executed Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D. Berget was put to death for killing prison guard Ronald
Media witnesses Dave Kolpack, from left, Don Jorgensen and Danielle Ferguson talk to the media after Rodney Berget is executed Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, S.D. Berget was put to death for killing prison guard Ronald “R.J.” Johnson in a failed escape seven years ago, marking the state’s first execution since 2012. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)

“I don’t think it’s right to kill a person, and I think the citizens of the state of South Dakota are wrong to kill someone,” said Engelgau, a retired court reporter.

Scott Johnson told the Argus Leader that he didn’t know R.J. Johnson, but stood across the street in support of the death penalty. Scott Johnson said a prisoner in the penitentiary killed his sister and was sentenced to life without parole.

Lynette Johnson talks about her late husband RJ Johnson Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, at her home in Sioux Falls, S.D. RJ was killed while on duty as a correctional officer in 2011 by two inmates trying to escape. One of those inmates, Rodney Berget, is being executed. The other inmate, Eric Robert, was executed in 2012. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)
Lynette Johnson talks about her late husband RJ Johnson Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, at her home in Sioux Falls, S.D. RJ was killed while on duty as a correctional officer in 2011 by two inmates trying to escape. One of those inmates, Rodney Berget, is being executed. The other inmate, Eric Robert, was executed in 2012. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)

“I know there’s two sides to everything, but I don’t understand their side at all,” he said.

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Source: The Associated Press