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  1. #1
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    Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. - Federal Death Row

    Dru Sjodin

    Summary of Offense:

    Convicted on August 30, 2006 of the murder of a college student, Dru Sjodin. Sjodin was kidnapped from North Dakota and her body was found in Minnesota. A jury in North Dakota recommended a death sentence on September 22. The judge formally sentenced Rodriguez to death on February 8, 2007. North Dakota does not have a state death penalty and has not had an execution since 1905. The judge chose South Dakota as the place of execution. South Dakota utilizes lethal injection for executions, though none has been carried out. South Dakota's execution process is being reviewed by the legislature. The U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Rodriguez, Drew Wrigley, commented about the state's distaste for the death penalty: "It's just not part of the culture up here really at all. We live in the safest state in the the union."

  2. #2
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    September 22, 2006

    Man Gets Death in N.D. Student's Murder

    FARGO, N.D. -- Jurors on Friday sentenced a convicted sex offender to death for killing University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, whose body was found in a Minnesota ravine nearly five months after she disappeared.

    The jury reached its decision against Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. after more than a day and a half of deliberations.

    It is the first death penalty case in North Dakota in nearly a century. The state does not have the death penalty but it is allowed in federal cases.

    The same federal jury convicted Rodriguez, 53, of Crookston, Minn., on Aug. 30 on a charge of kidnapping resulting in Sjodin's death.

    Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lakes, Minn., disappeared from a Grand Forks shopping mall parking lot on Nov. 22, 2003, and her body was found the following April in a ravine near Crookston. Authorities said she was beaten, raped and stabbed.

    U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, in his statements to jurors, said the death penalty would be the "right thing, in the right case." He stood near her portrait and asked for justice.

    Rodriguez's attorney, Richard Ney, asked the jury for mercy after calling psychologists and Rodriguez's family to talk about his childhood of poverty, abuse and exposure to farm chemicals. Ney also said Rodriguez had been anxious about being released from prison after serving more than 20 years for assaults on three women in 1975 and 1980.


  3. #3
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    September 3, 2008

    FARGO - Federal prosecutors say the appeal by a man convicted of killing a University of North Dakota student should be rejected and his death sentence should stand.

    Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. of Crookston, Minn., is awaiting execution in a federal prison for the 2003 kidnapping and killing of Dru Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lakes, Minn. His lawyers have appealed the verdict.

    In the government's 216-page response filed with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, prosecutors said there were few mistakes made during the trial, and any possible errors were harmless.

    "The judgment of conviction and sentence of death imposed in the district court should be affirmed," prosecutors wrote.

    Defense attorney Richard Ney, a death penalty specialist from Wichita, Kan., said he didn't have a chance to review the document on Wednesday and had no comment. Later in the day, defense attorneys asked to extend the deadline for a response from two weeks to a month.

    Defense attorneys have argued that the jury pool was biased and mistakes were made by U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson and prosecutors. The Fargo trial was held in a community "contaminated by prejudice," the appeal said.

    U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley said in an interview that prosecutors tried in their response to add context to defense arguments.

    "Context is our friend in this thing because it was a fair trial conducted by an experienced judge with excellent defense lawyers who were very thorough," Wrigley said. "That's a point we will defend all day long."

    Sjodin disappeared from the parking lot of a Grand Forks mall in November 2003. Rodriguez, a convicted sex offender, was arrested soon after. Sjodin's body was found in a ravine near Crookston in April 2004.

    The government said Rodriguez's trial was fair and impartial, noting that the jury pool was 12 times the normal size and defense attorneys were allowed to strike up to 30 potential jurors instead of the allotted 20. Lawyers also took 21 court days to interview jurors, the government wrote.

    "The judge was being very thorough. Wherever there was a close call, it went in the direction of the defense," Wrigley said Wednesday. "I think that was very clear going through the transcript."

    A defense complaint that Wrigley used improper language in closing arguments does not qualify as "misconduct such as would negate the jury's death verdict," prosecutors said.

    The government is requesting that both sides have 60 minutes to argue in front of the circuit court, twice the time that normally is allowed. Wrigley said he expects the case to be heard by early 2009.

    "I always caution people that this is an important part - not a begrudging part - of our work to defend this verdict until the very end," Wrigley said. "What's really on trial at this point is the trial itself."


  4. #4
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    September 22, 2009

    Death sentence affirmed in Dru Sjodin kidnap case

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) —A federal appeals court on Tuesday affirmed the death sentence of a convicted rapist in the 2003 kidnapping and death of a University of North Dakota student in a case that led both Minnesota and North Dakota to toughen their sex-offender laws.

    The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., of Crookston, Minn., got a fair trial and rejected his bid to overturn his death sentence.

    The decision came three years to the day that a federal jury in Fargo, N.D., decided Rodriguez should die for the kidnapping and killing of Dru Sjodin. The jury earlier found him guilty of abducting Sjodin on Nov. 22, 2003, from the parking lot of a Grand Forks, N.D., shopping mall where she worked.

    Despite massive searches that included National Guard troops, the 22-year-old Pequot Lakes, Minn., woman remained missing for five months until her body was found near Crookston, where Rodriguez lived with his mother. Authorities said she had been raped, beaten and stabbed.

    Rodriguez, who had been released from prison just a few months before the kidnapping, appealed on several grounds, including the venue for the trial, the composition and selection of the jury, evidentiary rulings, statements by the prosecution and Sjodin's family and friends during the penalty phase of his trial, the jury instructions during the penalty phase and the constitutionality of the death penalty.

    In its 2-1 ruling, the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit rejected the defense arguments on all those points. Among other things, it said the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the defense motion to move the trial from North Dakota to Minnesota. It disagreed with the defense's criticisms of the jury selection process. It said the evidence about semen in Sjodin's body was properly admitted, as was evidence of Rodriguez' previous convictions for sexual assault. And it rejected the defense's claims of errors by the judge and prosecution through his trial.

    Judge Michael Melloy dissented from part of the opinion. He said there were several errors in the government's penalty-phase closing arguments that were so serious that the death sentence should be vacated and that the case should be sent back to the district court for a new penalty phase.

    Sjodin's mother, Linda Walker, said the family was pleased with Tuesday's ruling, but she's sure that the process isn't over yet.

    "We have absolutely the best legal team as possible. This latest success is because of them. We're very grateful as a family," Walker said.

    A dozen new laws against sex offenders have been enacted in North Dakota because of the case.

    Minnesota toughened its procedures for handling sexual predators after coming under fire for letting Rodriguez go free six months before Sjodin's abduction, after he served 23 years in prison for a previous conviction. While state officials had classified him as a Level 3 sex offender, the kind most likely to re-offend, they opted not to try to commit civilly, which would have let the state hold him indefinitely.

    Minnesota now keeps more sex offenders locked up longer, supervises them more closely once they do get out of prison and commits more of them to its security hospitals once their prison sentences run out.

    "This is another reason why we should not let these predators out to reoffend time and time again," Walker said of the state's failure to keep Rodriguez confined earlier.

    Lynn Jordheim, acting U.S. attorney for North Dakota, said the ruling had just arrived on his desk Tuesday morning and he didn't want to comment until he read it. Former U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, who prosecuted the case, planned a news conference for 10:30 a.m. in Fargo.

    Defense attorney Robert Hoy did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

  5. #5
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    July 22, 2010

    Lawyers have begun working on what is considered the final step in the legal appeals process for a convicted rapist sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin in 2003.

    The case for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. will be filed under a federal rule historically referred to as habeas corpus. The motion is separate from the original appeal and is meant to determine whether the federal government can continue to hold an inmate.

    "This is going to be, in all likelihood, his last shot," said Joseph Daly, a Hamline University law professor who has participated in death penalty appeals.

    Habeas corpus motions are typically filed when a conviction becomes final. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson appointed defenders to the new case earlier this week even though the U.S. Supreme Court has not decided whether it will hear arguments on the appeal.

    The justices are likely to decide in October whether to take up Rodriguez's appeal. Should they decline, his lawyers will have one year to file their civil case.

    "If the U.S. Supreme Court does not hear the case, then he is probably coming to the end of his avenues of appeals and motions sometime in 2012," Daly said. "But lawyers are very creative and (habeas corpus) gives them avenues beyond the regular appeal process."

    Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lakes, Minn., was abducted from the parking lot of a Grand Forks shopping mall on Nov. 22, 2003, after talking with her boyfriend on her cell phone. Rodriguez, 57, of Crookston, Minn., was arrested on Dec. 1, 2003.

    Sjodin's body was discovered in a ravine near Crookston on April 17, 2004. Authorities said he was raped, beaten and stabbed. A jury sentenced Rodriguez to death on Sept. 22, 2006. It was North Dakota's first federal death penalty case and led to tougher laws for sex offenders.

    In September, Rodriguez lost his appeal with a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 vote. Rodriguez asked for a hearing in front of the full circuit court, which was denied in February.

    The chances of the Supreme Court taking up the appeal are "almost nil," Daly said.

    "I suppose the thought for assigning counsel now is, 'Why not, you might as well go ahead with this.'"

    Erickson appointed Joseph Margulies, a Northwestern University law professor, to lead the defense team. Margulies has represented several death row inmates and recently defended Guantanamo Bay detainees.

    "Time is short, and the need is great," Margulies wrote in court documents asking to be assigned the case. He did not return phone messages from The Associated Press.

    Erickson authorized three federal public defenders to help with the motion, Katherine Mendez and Andrew Mohring from Minnesota, and Neil Fulton from North Dakota.

    Rodriguez's trial lawyers, Richard Ney and Robert Hoy, are continuing to work on the original appeal.


  6. #6
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    October 18, 2010

    High court won't hear death penalty appeal for man convicted in Dru Sjodin murder

    FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court says it will not hear an appeal by a man sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing a University of North Dakota student in 2003.

    The U.S. attorney's office in Fargo says the court announced on Monday it had denied the petition for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., who's currently on death row at a federal prison.

    A legal team already has been named to handle a final appeal historically referred to as habeas corpus.

    Twenty-two-year-old Dru Sjodin was abducted from the parking lot of a Grand Forks shopping mall in November 2003. Her body was found five months later near Crookston, Minn.

    Rodriguez was a convicted sex offender when he was released from a Minnesota prison, months before Sjodin was abducted.

    The justices ruled without comment. The order is a part of the list of the orders of the court for Monday, Oct. 18, 2010:


  7. #7
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    FBI honors mom of Dru Sjodin for her advocacy work

    MINNEAPOLIS -- Linda J. Walker, the mother of Dru Sjodin, was one of several recipients of the 201 Director's Community Leadership Award at a ceremony held Friday in Washington D.C.

    Walker was nominated by the Minneapolis FBI. The winners, selected by their area FBI field office, have demonstrated outstanding contributions to their local communities through community service.

    Sjodin, at age 22, was kidnapped from a shopping mall parking lot in North Dakota in November of 2003. Her body was discovered near Crookston nearly five months later.

    Her convicted killer, a sex offender, had been released from custody after serving 23 years for attempted kidnapping and assault shortly before Sjodin was kidnapped. He is currently on federal death row.

    Walker has become an advocate of women and children by speaking out against violence against them. She travels throughout the country to speak to college students, law enforcement, and the media in order to raise awareness and rally support for legislation.

    In 2004, Senator Byron Dorgen and Representative Earl Pomeroy, both of North Dakota, sponsored Dru's Law in Congress to create a National Sex Offender's Database. Walker was relentless in her effort to bring the proposed legislation to the attention of the public and every member of Congress.

    She was present at the White House on July 26, 2006, when President Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act into law, legislation that included Dru's Law.

    Dru's Law requires convicted child molesters to be listed on a national internet database and face a felony charge for failing to update their whereabouts. It is the first national online database that allows the public to search for registered sex offenders by zip code. It assists law enforcement in locating more than 100,000 unaccounted for sex offenders, calls for harsh federal sentences for sexually assaulting children, and allows for the imposition of the death penalty if a victim is murdered.

    Walker, along with other parents whom she met in Washington D.C. while lobbying for the Adam Walsh Act, formed the Surviving Parents Coalition. The mission of the SPC is to advocate for legislation that will aid in the prevention of crimes against children and young adults; especially child sex abuse, sexual assault, exploitation, abduction and murder.


  8. #8
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    5 years after Rodriguez convicted for Dru Sjodin's murder: Nothing but sadness

    Five years ago this week, a federal jury in Fargo convicted and later sentenced to death the man who kidnapped, raped and murdered Dru Sjodin.

    But the pain is still there.

    For Sjodins mother, time does nothing to remedy the deep emotional scars inflicted by the brutality of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.

    I have to live my life without Dru every single day, said Linda Walker. The wounds are far deeper than anyone can see or even imagine unless they have been there.

    For the lead prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney and now North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, the highest-profile case in his career as a prosecutor brought him no sense of catharsis.

    It doesnt work that way at all, he said. In the wake of it, theres nothing but sadness. Thats all there is.

    For one of the 12 jurors who unanimously agreed a killer deserved to be killed, the three arduous months in the jury box were the source of a repeating post-trial nightmare. It was the same scenario, waking her up in a panic on 50 nights, by her own estimate.

    At a fair, a sea of heads everywhere, she would lose track of her own daughter before suddenly being in a quiet room, and as a police radio pierces the silence, a thought hits her: Its been three days. Where is she?

    When you sit through that every day, its hard not to personalize yourself with her mom. That could be me sitting there. That could be my daughter, said Rebecca Jensen, a single mother from Jamestown, N.D., who served on the Rodriguez jury.

    The Rodriguez case, the first in North Dakota in which a federal execution has been ordered, is often credited as the impetus for a stiffening of sex offender laws given he was a convicted rapist released just six months before Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lakes, Minn., was kidnapped at a Grand Forks mall on Nov. 22, 2003.

    The imprint left on those involved might be just as lasting, and the effect both personal and broader intersect for Walker. She has worked as an advocate for reforming laws pertaining to sexual predators, helping establish a national sex offender registry and arguing against cuts to task forces investigating online crimes against children.

    Lately, shes been pushing schools nationwide to take up radKIDS, which is a safety program aimed at teaching children to resist aggression defensively. A memorial road race was held for her daughter in Pequot Lakes in August, an event that keeps growing and had nearly 500 participants this year, with all proceeds being donated to radKIDS.

    Walker said her advocacy work is part of her healing process, and she hopes it helps people realize that violence can strike anyone.

    Thats what I hope people get out of hearing Drus name again, she said.

    Wrigley said in an interview this week that every case of violence hes prosecuted affects him, but there is no denying the impact of what happened five years ago.

    I dont know that a week of my life goes by that something doesnt remind me about that trial, said Wrigley, whether its memories of the trial springing to mind on a long run or strangers who stop him in the street to thank him for his work on the case.

    Wrigley said he hopes the element of the trial that doesnt get lost is that the prosecution and decision to seek an execution, a move he argued in favor of with the U.S. Department of Justice, sprang from the violent history for which Rodriguez was responsible.

    People need to remember this was a just result based on the facts of the case, Wrigley said. Alfonso Rodriguez is where he belongs precisely the place, death row.

    The 58-year-old Crookston, Minn., man remains on federal death row in an Indiana prison. His direct appeals have been denied, and hes been appointed a new attorney to assist in preparing whats considered one of the final steps in the appeals process, a habeas corpus motion.

    Lynn Jordheim, the first assistant U.S. attorney for the district of North Dakota, said theres an October deadline for filing the motion, a constitutional provision allowing inmates to contest imprisonment. The defense attorney, Joseph Margulies, didnt return a message seeking comment.

    I believe the verdict was justly won, and now its being justly defended, said Wrigley, adding that he thinks the defense of the appeal is in good hands.

    Jensen said while no one should be put in the sort of position she and her fellow jurors were deciding if a person should be sentenced to die she has no regrets.

    I feel comfortable with the decision, she said. I didnt do this to him. He did this to him.

    Jensen said the jury met a few times as a group after the trial was over, though most of those connections faded over the years. Her experience serving on the case, however, has made her sensitive to fairness in the court system. Outrage earlier this summer when a Florida jury found Casey Anthony not guilty in the death of her daughter was not shared by Jensen.

    They didnt do anything wrong, Jensen said. They probably wanted to convict her, but they couldnt. I just want to stand up and say, Stop blaming them; its not their fault.

    The main effect, though, was making her appreciate her children and to educate them on how to stay safe. She reminds them often to look right at a video camera every time they see one so it can get a good look.

    Shell wave up at it, like, hey, here I come, Jensen said of one of her children.


  9. #9
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    Deadline today for Rodriguez’s last appeal

    Attorneys for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. are expected to file a habeas corpus motion by the end of the day Tuesday in an attempt to keep the Crookston man, who already has lost two direct appeals, from being executed for the kidnapping and murder of former UND student Dru Sjodin.

    Rodriguez, 58, remains on death row in federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., which has the federal system’s only lethal injection chamber.

    A writ of habeas corpus, based on a tradition dating back centuries in English law, is a sort of last resort appeal for review of a death penalty case by a judge, after the direct reviews and appeals have been exhausted.

    Lynn Jordheim, assistant U.S. attorney for North Dakota, said the year-long statute of limitations to file a habeas corpus motion ends Tuesday.

    An employee in the federal court’s clerk’s office in Fargo recommended checking the docket Tuesday for such a filing.

    Failed appeals

    Five years ago, a federal jury in Fargo found Rodriguez guilty of kidnapping and murdering Sjodin in November 2003, taking her from Grand Forks to a ravine near Crookston, where her body was found the next spring.

    The same jury found, after a separate trial, that he should be put to death, rather than spend life in prison.

    U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson pronounced that sentence on Rodriguez in February 2007.

    Two years ago, a federal circuit court panel, months after it had heard Rodriguez’ appeal in St. Paul, denied it. A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the circuit court’s judgment.

    The habeas corpus writ is a separate motion, apart from the evidence of a particular case, seeking a judge’s review. It can include a wide variety of constitutional issues and, if the federal district court in Fargo denies it, the motion can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

    Defense shuffle

    Last month, Richard Ney of Wichita, Kans., and Robert Hoy, West Fargo, the attorneys who defended Rodriguez through his direct appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, were “terminated” officially as counsels, according to court documents.

    In July 2010 Erickson already had appointed a new team of federal defenders for Rodriguez in the habeas corpus procedure.

    Joseph Margulies, a Chicago law professor with wide experience in death penalty cases, heads the team, which also includes Andrew Mohring and Katherine Menendez, federal public defenders in Minneapolis.

    Margulies and Mohring have not returned calls about the case.

    Erickson and attorneys from both sides held a conference on Sept. 27, its nature and results sealed, according to court documents.


  10. #10
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    Oct 2010
    Appeals: Rodriguez was insane, mentally disabled

    Sjodin's attacker confused her with childhood abuser, lawyer says

    The new appeal by Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. of his death sentence in the 2003 kidnapping and killing of UND student Dru Sjodin reveals details about Rodriguez's version of the crime that have not been made public before.

    It also includes a strange and new account, claiming Rodriguez confused Sjodin with a college girl he says sexually abused him in 1959.

    The habeas corpus motion filed last week in federal court in Fargo by Rodriguez's new defense team is considered the last resort appeal after his direct appeals were turned down a year ago by the U.S. Supreme Court.


    Arrested Dec. 1, 2003, in his hometown of Crookston — only days after Sjodin disappeared from a Grand Forks parking lot while talking on her cellphone to her boyfriend — Rodriguez has been in jail since. Despite massive searches involving thousands of volunteers, Sjodin's body wasn't found until April 2004, in a grassy ravine less than a mile from Crookston.

    A federal jury in Fargo convicted him and determined his sentence should be death in September 2006. Rodriguez, 58, remains on federal death row in Terre Haute, Ind.

    Joseph Margulies, the Chicago law professor and attorney appointed to defend Rodriguez, filed the 298-page habeas corpus motion a week ago.

    The entire document now is available on the Herald's website.

    Finding faults

    Margulies argues that a key prosecution witness falsely testified that forensic evidence proved Alfonso Rodriguez raped Dru Sjodin and then slashed her throat brutally with a knife. Rather, Margulies says, Rodriguez had no clear intention of killing Sjodin.

    He also argues Rodriguez is mentally disabled and was insane at the time of the crime, making him ineligible for the federal death penalty.

    The habeas corpus motion for "collateral relief" asks the same U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson to set aside or vacate Rodriguez's sentence and give him a new trial.

    The motion, if denied, can be appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and to the Supreme Court.

    The new appeal attacks Rodriguez's former defense team, Richard Ney of Wichita, Kan., and Robert Hoy of West Fargo, for failing to pursue evidence and arguments that would have spared him the death penalty.

    And it calls the work and testimony of Ramsey County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael McGee, "junk science and false forensics"

    "According to the prosecution, Mr. Rodriguez abducted Dru Sjodin, raped her, drove her to a remote field in Crookston, Minnesota, slashed her throat, and left her to bleed to death on the frozen ground," Margulies writes, accurately summing up the argument of the chief prosecutor, then-U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, who now is North Dakota's lieutenant governor.

    "For his part, Mr. Rodriguez was depicted as little better than an animal, uncaring and unworthy," Margulies wrote. "We now know this carefully scripted talk conceals much and reveals little. Little about the government's case and even less about Alfonso Rodriguez, was true."

    Wrigley, as have Ney and Hoy, declines to comment on the new appeal.

    Wounds questioned

    McGee emphasized in his testimony that a large gaping wound in Sjodin's throat when her body was found in the ravine indicated a deep knife wound inflicted by Rodriguez.

    But Margulies cites the work of four other pathologists he elicited opinions from who criticized McGee's conclusions, saying that decomposition and animal depredation during the five months the body lay in the ravine were more likely sources of the wound; other wounds on her body were found indicating similar animal depredation and decomposition, he said.

    Margulies said the defense team during trial failed to point out that temperatures in the weeks before Sjodin's body was found would have allowed extensive decomposition to take place.

    He also argues that Dr. McGee "falsely" surmised, from acid phosphatase levels on a swab taken from Sjodin's body, that semen, indicating rape, was present.

    But Margulies argues that in such a decomposed state as Sjodin's body, such acid phosphatase levels were possible from other sources, and he cites forensic departments in several cities and states, as well as his own defense pathologists, to dismiss McGee's work.

    This issue was argued during the trial without being resolved, although the prosecution did consistently describe the attack as including a sexual assault.

    Mental state

    The defense should have done a better job showing the jury how intellectually impaired Rodriguez had been his whole life: failing first grade twice, having his IQ tested between 74 and 77 several times in elementary school, not making ninth grade until he was 18, Margulies says.

    "Alfonso Rodriguez is mentally retarded," Margulies says, citing "evidence that could have been uncovered by the trial team and would have been, but for their ineffectiveness. And were there no more to learn about Mr. Rodriguez than the fact that he is retarded, that would be enough. Because the law accepts what no civilized society should question: We do not kill the mentally retarded."

    He also was insane, Margulies argues at another point.

    Citing a psychiatrist, Pablo Stewart, who interviewed Rodriguez, Margulies' document includes Rodriguez's account of his kidnapping of Sjodin in words not made public before.

    Rodriguez said nothing about the crime from the day he was arrested until he was sentenced, including refusing his sister's appeals to tell investigators where he left Sjodin's body.

    Margulies says Rodriguez was insane at the time he kidnapped Sjodin and "unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions."

    Rodriguez confused Sjodin with the college girl he claims had sexually abused him when he was six years old at a church camp, an account corroborated by his sister, Margulies says.

    The girl wore "a college jersey," and was 19, Rodriguez told Stewart during the interview.

    Temporary insanity

    In speaking to Stewart, Rodriguez also revealed that he approached Sjodin after she was already sitting in her car in the Columbia Mall parking lot, a detail that never was made clear during the trial.

    It also reveals that he did stalk her, to a degree, inside the mall that day.

    "During my clinical interview, Alfonso described his encounter with Dru Sjodin," Stewart recounts. "He reported that he could not stop staring at her and immediately experienced a flood of emotions and physiological reactions. He described feeling fear followed by anger, and then panic. He began to dissociate, re-experiencing the abuse of his childhood. He described confused and chaotic thinking. At one level, he realized that the woman who abused him would have had to be much older than the young woman he saw at the mall. But he could not convince himself and could not act on that reality. He felt compelled to follow the woman. He described struggling with himself as he followed her. When she got to her car, she sat in the driver's seat talking on the phone with her head turned. As Alfonso approached, she looked up at him and although he had been telling himself that it couldn't be his abuser, he described feeling shock and a physical reaction of surprise when he realized that she was not the same woman who abused him. He was, by this point, in a full-blown dissociative state."

    That state of temporary insanity continued during his attack on Sjodin, the psychiatrist says, according to the court document.

    "Seeing a woman that resembled his abuser was a cue that triggered Alfonso's PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome) symptoms…. He described going in and out of a dissociative state over the course of the crime…. He had very powerful feelings that this actually was the woman who had abused him and he re-experienced the fear and anger and confusion and anxiety of that original trauma. And there were moments when she looked at him directly in the face, when he realized that she was not his abuser and he came back to reality. But he could not control that process and could not stay with the reality that he was a grown man in 2003 and not a little boy in 1959. He was angry at his abuser, not at Dru Sjodin."

    Combined with his mental retardation and PTSD, Rodriguez was in a state "where he could not stop himself," Dr. Stewart wrote in his report.

    Hazy memory

    Rodriguez "never intended to take her life," Stewart said, in an account never heard at trial.

    "At one point, when he was driving around town with her in the car, she began to struggle and bang on the windows. He tried to subdue her, struggled with her and eventually hit her, knocking her out and drawing blood. Once she was bleeding from the face and unconscious, he put a plastic bag over her head to contain the blood and he tied it with a string. His memories of this time are very fragmented, consistent with a dissociative episode. And his description of his thinking at the time is chaotic and illogical. He does not remember exactly when he realized she was dead, but he knows that he then panicked and drove around looking for a place to put her body."

    Margulies argues that if Rodriguez's defense team of Ney and Hoy had "presented this evidence, no reasonable jury would have concluded that Mr. Rodriguez had been of sound mind at the time of the offense, and that it's likely Rodriguez now would "be in a secure federal hospital rather than on death row."

    Prosecutors did present evidence of the remains of a plastic bag that had been around Sjodin's head when her body was found, and that evidence was found in the car of a bloody struggle. A knife found in his car trunk had traces of blood linked to Sjodin, the investigation found.

    Acting strangely

    Other tidbits from the appeal include that Margulies says Rodriguez's family has a history of Alzheimer's and that he shows signs of the disease, "often repeating words over and over."

    The family members have depression, too, he said, and diabetes, and Rodriguez was diagnosed with diabetes in Terre Haute in 2009.

    Rodriguez was sentenced in 1980 for his knife attack — and attempted abduction — on a Crookston woman. Together with his remaining sentence for his sexual assaults in the mid-1970s on two Crookston women, he would serve 23 years in state prison.

    In 1993, when his father died in Crookston, Rodriguez was allowed to go to the wake, accompanied by a prison guard, Margulies writes.

    In May 2003, he was released from prison with no restrictions and returned to Crookston to live with his mother. After a few months, he got a job installing dry wall.

    In another anecdote not known previously, less than a month before his abduction of Sjodin, Rodriguez returned with family members to his hometown of Laredo, Texas, for the funeral of his Uncle Luis.

    During the two-week trip, Rodriguez seemed to get more depressed and isolated, acting strangely, his family told Margulies.

    Less than three weeks after returning from Laredo, Rodriguez drove his mother's car into Grand Forks, shopped at Target, went to Columbia Mall, spotted Sjodin and followed her to her car.



    Rodriguez's habeas appeal can be found here: http://dockets.justia.com/docket/nor...1cv00088/23797

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