Hearings in North Dakota death penalty case pushed back

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, August 17, 2016

FARGO, N.D.— A federal judge on Tuesday pushed back the next hearing in a North Dakota death penalty case to allow a new defense team to catch up on evidence.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson had re-assigned the case of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. in June to the Federal Community Defender Office, or FCDO, in Pennsylvania. The move was viewed primarily as a cost-cutting measure.

A jury in 2005 convicted Rodriguez, of Crookston, Minnesota, for kidnapping and killing University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, in November 2003. It was North Dakota’s first federal death penalty case and led to tougher laws for sex offenders.

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The next hearing in the case was expected to take place on Nov. 1 in Fargo, with a second hearing to follow on Jan. 17. During a 10-minute session in open court Tuesday, Erickson scheduled a hearing on forensic issues for March 28 and hearing on mental health issues for June 20.