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Published October 18, 2010, 03:06 PM

US Supreme Court won't hear ND slaying case

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by a convicted sex offender on death row for killing a University of North Dakota student in 2003.

By: DAVE KOLPACK, Associated Press

A jury sentenced Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 57, of Crookston, Minn., to death in 2006 for kidnapping resulting in the death of Dru Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lakes, Minn. It was the state's first federal death penalty case and resulted in tougher laws for sex offenders.

The Supreme Court decision, announced Monday by the U.S. attorney's office in Fargo, was not unexpected. A federal judge already has appointed a legal team to handle what is considered the final appeals process in the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Jordheim of North Dakota said Monday he was not surprised by the decision.

"There's nothing for us to do at this point," Jordheim said. "Beyond that, it's up to Mr. Rodriguez and his attorneys on what further steps they may want to take."

Sjodin was abducted from the parking lot of a Grand Forks shopping mall in November 2003. Her body was discovered five months later in a ravine near Crookston, where Rodriguez lived with his mother. Authorities say Sjodin was raped, beaten and stabbed.

Linda Walker, Sjodin's mother, said the Supreme Court decision shows that the case was handled properly. The lead attorney in the case, Drew Wrigley, is no longer a federal prosecutor.

"We're so pleased that our Dru was defended by an amazing team," Walker said. "Clearly, they did everything by the strict laws of the Constitution. Time and time again their peers are saying so as well."

Rodriguez's trial lawyers, Richard Ney of Wichita, Kan., and Robert Hoy of West Fargo, did not return phone messages seeking comment.

Rodriguez earlier lost an 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.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson in July appointed Joseph Margulies, a Northwestern University law professor, to lead the appeal known historically as habeas corpus. Three public defenders, two from Minnesota and one from North Dakota, will help with the case.

The habeas motion is separate from the original appeal and is meant to determine whether the federal government can continue to hold an inmate. The defense team will have one year to make its case.

Walker has traveled the country in the past several years working to get funding for sex offender notification and child protection. She said she's disgusted that more money isn't being spent on those programs and will continue her push.

"Of course there isn't a day I don't think about Dru," Walker said Monday.

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