The Murder of Dru Sjodin
After a year of pre-trial hearings, the trial of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. on kidnapping and murder charges was scheduled to begin on July 6, 2006 at the Quentin Burdick Federal Courthouse. U.S District Judge Ralph Erickson was appointed to preside over the trial. The prosecution team, led by U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley and including U.S attorneys Norman Anderson and Keith Reisenauer, spent two years preparing for the case. The defense team, led by Robert Hoy of West Fargo and Richard Ney of Wichita, Kansas was also well prepared. Ney temporarily represented BTK serial killer Dennis Rader at trial in 2005.
Tension filled the courtroom on the first day of trial and was exacerbated when a computer glitch in the court's computers led to the trial's temporary postponement. Judge Erickson apologized to Dru's family and friends, as well as to other members of the court for an alleged violation that occurred during jury selection, which was caused when a computer erroneously "produced a list of potential jurors that was not random," said Dave Kolpack of Grand Forks Herald. According to court officials, "jury selection could take the rest of the month."
Federal prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty, since the heinous crime was committed across state lines. Joseph Daly, a criminal law professor at Hamline University in St. Paul told CNN, "A federal death penalty case is quite unusual, especially when you're talking about a state that doesn't have the death penalty" North Dakota abolished the death penalty law in 1975 and the last criminal put to death in the state occurred in 1905. If Rodriguez is sentenced to death, he could be the first person to be executed in the state in more than one-hundred years.
Human rights advocates expressed anger about the decision to seek the death penalty. However, the controversy did not deter federal prosecutors, who agreed with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty when he stated "that the most heinous sex offenses should be subject to the death penalty." It is not known whether Dru would have approved of pursing the death penalty, we can only guess.