Roger James Berget

Executed June 8, 2000 by Lethal Injection in Oklahoma


44th murderer executed in U.S. in 2000
642nd murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
8th murderer executed in Oklahoma in 2000
27th murderer executed in Oklahoma since 1976


Since 1976
Date of Execution
State
Method
Murderer
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
Birth
Victim(s)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Murder
Method of
Murder
Relationship
to Murderer
Date of
Sentence
642
06-08-00
OK
Lethal Injection
Roger James Berget

W / M / 24 - 39

11-20-60
Rick Lee Patterson

W / M / 33

10-20-85
Shotgun
None
03-12-87

Summary:
On October 21, 1985 two hunters discovered the body of Rick Patterson in a wooded area near Interstate 40 and Rockwell. The 33 year old Patterson, a math teacher at a local middle school, had been killed by a shotgun blast. His car was found burned in a field near Tulsa three days later. In August 1986, Berget was arrested by Del City and Midwest City police on robbery and burglary charges. Berget confessed to police that he and a friend had abducted and killed Patterson. Berget related that he and Mikell Smith decided to steal a car so that they could go riding around on October 19, 1985. They went to an Oklahoma City supermarket where they saw Rick Patterson walking toward a car. When Patterson opened the car, Berget forced him at gunpoint to slide over to the passenger's side. Smith got into the back seat. Berget drove the car to a deserted area of town, where the two men tied or taped Patterson's hands and mouth and then put him into the trunk of the car. Berget drove east on I-40 to an isolated place. When Berget and Smith opened the trunk, the men found that Patterson had freed his hands. They tied his hands behind his back, forced him to stand up next to a tree and then shot him. Fearing that Patterson was still alive and could crawl away, another shot was fired. Berget pled guilty to first-degree murder, although he recanted his confession to the extent of blaming his accomplice for actually killing Patterson. Berget also confessed to killing James Meadows in Hughes County. Both Berget and Smith received a death sentence, but Smith was successful on appeal in 1992 and his sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole when he agreed to plead guilty before retrial.

Citations:
Berget v. State, 824 P.2d 364 (Okl.Cr. 1991) (Direct Appeal).

Internet Sources:

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

ProDeathPenalty.Com

On October 20, 1985, Rick Lee Patterson was abducted in a grocery store parking lot. Patterson, a 33-year-old mathematics teacher, was found dead on October 21 by two hunters in a wooded area near Interstate 40 and Rockwell. Patterson's car was found burned in a field in north Tulsa on October 24. Nearly one year later, in August 1986, Scott M. Thornton, 22, and Roger James Berget, 25, were arrested by Del City and Midwest City police on complaints of robbery and burglary. Berget was charged with the shotgun murder of Patterson. Mikel Patrick Smith, 21, was also charged with the murder. Smith was serving a prison sentence for a forgery conviction. According to police, on August 13, 1986, Berget admitted that he helped Smith abduct Patterson and took part in his murder. Oklahoma City police detective Bill Citty testified that Berget and Smith drove Patterson to a wooded area, where Smith shot Patterson twice with a shotgun. According to prosecutors, Patterson was abducted by Berget and Smith because they wanted to steal his car. Thornton also testified against Berget. He agreed to be a witness for the prosecution in exchange for the promise of a 25-year prison sentence outside of Oklahoma. Another witness, Donald Gene Wheeler, said Smith claimed to have shot Patterson first and that Berget then fired the second shot. This was so that Smith and Berget would not be able to snitch against each other.

Death Penalty Institute of Oklahoma

Roger Berget - Executed June 8, 2000 (Information Compiled and Edited by Robert Peebles)

Oklahoma executed Roger James Berget, 39, on June 8, 2000. Berget was pronounced dead at 12:12am. He was executed for the 1985 murder of Rick Lee Patterson, 33. Berget was the eighth man executed by Oklahoma in 2000 and the 27th man executed by the state since it resumed executions in 1990. He was also the 110th man executed in state history.

Background

On October 20, 1985, Rick Lee Patterson was abducted in a grocery store parking lot. Patterson, a 33-year-old Moore mathematics teacher, was found dead on October 21 by two hunters in a wooded area near Interstate 40 and Rockwell. Patterson's car was found burned in a field in north Tulsa on October 24. Nearly one year later, in August 1986, Scott M. Thornton, 22, and Roger James Berget, 25, were arrested by Del City and Midwest City police on complaints of robbery and burglary. While in custody, Berget was charged with the shotgun murder of Patterson. Mikel Patrick Smith, 21, was also charged with the murder. Smith was serving a prison sentence for a forgery conviction.

According to police, on August 13, 1986, Berget admitted that he helped Smith abduct Patterson and took part in his murder. Oklahoma City police detective Bill Citty testified that Berget and Smith drove Patterson to a wooded area, where Smith shot Patterson twice with a shotgun. According to prosecutors, Patterson was abducted by Berget and Smith because they wanted to steal his car. Thornton also testified against Berget. He agreed to be a witness for the prosecution in exchange for the promise of a 25-year prison sentence outside of Oklahoma. Another witness, Donald Gene Wheeler, said Smith claimed to have shot Patterson first and that Berget then fired the second shot. This was so that Smith and Berget would not be able to snitch against each other.

According to defense attorney Jim Rowan, then prosecutor Ray Elliot had offered six consecutive life sentences to Berget in exchange for a guilty plea. After Berget encountered Smith in the jail, he changed his mind and decided to testify on behalf of Smith. Rowan believed that Berget's decision was probably based on a fear of Smith. On January 23, 1987, Berget pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Oklahoma County Judge John Amick sentenced Berget to death on March 12. After being sentenced to death, Berget sought to withdraw his guilty plea. Amick turned down the request.

Between the date of Berget's guilty plea and his sentence, Berget testified in the murder trial of Smith. Contrary to his earlier statements to police, Berget testified that Smith was not even present when the murder occurred. Apparently the jurors did not believe Berget, as they found Smith guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death. In 1992, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted a new trial to Smith due to several errors in his original trial. In 1995, District Judge Nancy Coats sentenced Smith to life without parole for the murder of Patterson in a closed hearing. Coats barred all spectators from the courtroom, apparently at the request of the Department of Corrections. Smith pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.

Clemency Denied

At 2:00pm on Tuesday, May 30, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board held a clemency hearing for Roger Berget. Attorney Steve Presson represented Berget in the hearing. Presson stated in the hearing that clemency in Oklahoma seems impossible to obtain. He cited previous clemency hearings in which evidence of innocence, mental retardation, remorse, true rehabilitation, federal court recommendations and even the pleadings of prison guards had failed to persuade the Board to vote for clemency. Presson mentioned an article that appeared in the May 29 edition of the Daily Oklahoman about Oklahoma's clemency process. The article states, in part, "the outcome holds as much suspense as a Harlem Globetrotters game or an episode of 'The Lone Ranger.'"

Prior to Berget's clemency hearing, 19 other inmates had gone through the clemency process in Oklahoma's current experiment with the death penalty. The Board has never voted in favor of clemency. Board member Flint Breckinridge stated that all of the Board members approached each clemency hearing with an open mind. Presson stated that the only time Berget claimed responsibility for the murder of Patterson was after he was confronted in jail by Smith. Presson also pointed out that while in prison Smith has killed another inmate, stabbed a guard and stabbed an inmate. While Berget has been on death row he has not received a single write-up. Presson said that it was obviously unfair that Berget was facing death while Smith was given a life sentence. Presson gave details of Berget's childhood. At the age of nine or ten, Berget's father kicked him of their house. He then lived in an abandoned house, where his mother would take him meals. When his father discovered what was occurring, he beat both the child and his mother, and then burned down the abandoned house.

Jim Rowan, who had been Berget's defense attorney in 1987, stated that Berget had thrown himself on the mercy of the court, yet the judge had sentenced him to death. Rowan asked the Board to vote in favor of clemency for Berget, stating "We all want justice for somebody else, and mercy for ourselves." A pen pal of Berget's from the Netherlands also testified at the hearing. She asked the Board to break through the circle of hatred and vote in favor of clemency. Several members of Rick Patterson's family, including his father, brother and sister, also spoke at the clemency hearing. They discussed the pain of loss they have suffered due to his murder.

Towards the end of the hearing, Berget was led into the room in chains. He sat down beside Presson and they whispered to each other briefly. Then Presson announced to the Board that Berget had changed his mind and no longer wished to make a presentation to the Board. Berget was then led out of the room. Board members Flint Breckinridge, Currie Ballard and Stephanie Chappelle all appointees of Governor Frank Keating voted against recommending clemency. Chairperson Susan Bussey, after a pause, voted in favor of clemency. Thus, clemency was denied 3-1. At this point only Governor Keating can grant a stay of execution. This is unprecedented and extremely unlikely.

Vigils held across the State - Prayer vigils were held in 12 locations around the state.

APBNews Online

"Florida, Oklahoma Execute Killers."

(June 8, 2000) - Accused of carjacking - In McAlester, Okla., early Thursday, Roger James Berget, 39, was executed by injection for killing Rick Patterson, a 33-year-old math teacher at Moore Central Mid-High. Berget and Mikell Smith were accused of carjacking Patterson from an Oklahoma City supermarket parking lot. The men forced Patterson into the trunk of his car and drove to a deserted area near Interstate 40 where they ordered him out of the car and shot him. Berget, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, also confessed to killing another man. The death sentence given to Smith was reduced on appeal in 1992 to life in prison without parole. "How he got off, I'll never know," said Patterson's sister, Diane Newlin. "I guess one is better than none."

Shawnee News-Star

"School Teacher's Killer Scheduled for Execution." (June 8, 2000)

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) -- The family of murdered Moore Central Mid-High math teacher Rick Patterson made sure his grave in Ponca City had fresh flowers on it on Wednesday before his killer was scheduled to be executed early the next morning for his 1985 murder. "It's the best decorated grave there," said Patterson's sister, Diane Newlin. Newlin, along with Patterson's father, brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews traveled from Ponca City to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to be there for the execution of one of his killers, Roger James Berget, 39. The family toured the prison during the afternoon. They found it clean and far nicer than they wished. "They're living in better conditions than some people outside the fence," said his brother, Lloyd Patterson. "To me, there's no suffering."

They said they would be getting some closure with Berget's execution, but not all because Berget's co-defendant, Mikell Smith's death sentence was appealed in 1992 and reduced to life in prison without parole. "This is only half," said Newlin. "There's still the other half ... I hope he gets his in prison." Newlin, Lloyd Patterson and father, Raymond Patterson planned to witness the execution. "We need to be here," said Lloyd Patterson. "And I'd like to thank the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for not allowing us to get justice on Smith. This is half of what we've been through."

The loss of life was needless, said Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson on Wednesday afternoon about the 1985 execution-style murder. No appeals stood in the way of the execution, Edmondson said. "As always, our thoughts are with the victim's family," he said. "There were four aggravated circumstances, and the death penalty was assessed. I agree with the jury that it's appropriate in this case."

Earlier in the week, Patterson's colleagues and family had smiles in their voices this as they reminisced about the slain teacher, who died during a carjacking on Oct. 19, 1985. Patterson, 33, had a reputation as a gifted math teacher and practical joker beloved by fellow teachers and his students. "It had so much impact and caused so much pain to so many people, especially his kids," said Lois Evans, the assistant principal at the mid-high when the Bill Shoaf taught math in the classroom next to Patterson at Moore Mid-High. He remembered Patterson's frequent gifts of homemade cookies and his shenanigans. "Rule of thumb, if you saw him coming out of your classroom ... you'd better check it over. Those were the good old days," said Shoaf, who is now retired. "The kids thought it was great. But when the bell rang, it was all business with him."

Moore High School Principal Gene Burr was Patterson's principal at that time. He remembered him as a creative teacher who was always looking for new ways to do things. "It was a very traumatic thing for the school when it occurred," Burr said. Newlin said when her brother died, it changed everything with the family. Joke gifts such as a bottle cutter that her brother used to pass around the family came to a stop, and family gatherings became somber. "Rick brought the laughter into our lives," Newlin said. "We're real lost without him."

Berget and Smith were accused of carjacking Patterson from an Oklahoma City supermarket parking lot. The two men forced Patterson into the trunk of his car and drove to a deserted area near Interstate 40 where they ordered him out of the car and shot him. Berget pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He also confessed to killing James Meadows in Hughes County near Holdenville. For his last meal, Berget has requested two bacon cheeseburgers, a large order of onion rings, extra large root beer and a pint of plain chocolate ice cream.

No family will witness Berget's execution. Two attorneys for Berget, a legal adviser, investigator and spiritual adviser will be in attendance. Newlin said Berget's execution brings part of the justice she believes is due her brother. She said it's been a long 15 years and she's ready. "He's getting it a lot easier than my brother did, there's no comparison with how my brother died," she said. But she said her family will only get partial closure because of Smith not getting the death penalty. "How he got off, I'll never know," Newlin said. "I guess one is better than none."

Shawnee News-Star

"Teacher's Murderer Executed." (June 9, 2000)

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) -- A man convicted of killing a Moore Central Mid-High school teacher had nothing to say before he was executed early Thursday. Roger James Berget, 39, was pronounced dead at 12:12 a.m. after receiving a lethal dose of drugs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

The curtain went up on the execution chamber at 12:08 a.m. Berget lay quietly on the gurney with his short, scruffy beard and long dark hair. He answered with a quiet, "no, sir," when he was asked if he had a final statement. The execution was over quickly after he exhaled several raspy breathes. Berget pleaded guilty to murdering Rick Patterson along with co-defendant Mikell Smith after a carjacking from an Oklahoma City supermarket parking lot on Oct. 19, 1985. "It was easy -- way too easy," said Diane Newlin, Patterson's sister, after the execution was over. "They talk about a humane way to die. There was nothing humane with the way they killed my brother," said Rick Patterson's brother, Lloyd. "He had a smile on his face when he shut his eyes and he had a smile when they pronounced him dead."

Berget and Smith forced Patterson into the trunk of his car and drove to a deserted area near Interstate 40 where they ordered him out of the car and shot him in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun. Berget pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He also confessed to killing James Meadows in Hughes County near Holdenville. It was the eighth execution this year and the 27th since the death penalty was reinstated in 1990.

Earlier in the week, Patterson's colleagues and family remembered the slain teacher who died during a carjacking on Oct. 19, 1985. Patterson was popular with his students, other teachers and administration. He was described as an "excellent teacher" by his principals and aspired to be a principal himself someday. "It (his death) had so much impact and caused so much pain to so many people, especially his kids," said Lois Evans, the assistant principal at the mid-high when the murder occurred. Newlin, along with Patterson's father, brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews traveled from Ponca City to the penitentiary for the execution. Earlier in the afternoon, they said they would be getting some closure with Berget's execution, but not all because Berget's co-defendant, Smith's death sentence was appealed in 1992 and reduced to life in prison without parole.

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said earlier he agreed with the jury's recommendation of a death sentence. "There were four aggravated circumstances, and the death penalty was assessed. I agree with the jury that it's appropriate in this case." Executions have been scheduled for William Clifford Bryson on June 15, and Gregg Francis Braun on July 20.

Berget v. State, 824 P.2d 364 (Okl.Cr. 1991) (Direct Appeal).

Petitioner pled guilty to First Degree Murder (21 O.S.1981, 701.7(B)) in Oklahoma County District Court, Case No. CRF-86-4533. As a part of the plea process, he also entered guilty pleas to four counts of Burglary in the First Degree, charged in Case Numbers CRF-86-4264, CRF-86-4475, CRF-86-4476 and CRF-86-4478 and to Possession of a Firearm After Former Conviction of a Felony, in Case No. CRF-86-1536. After a sentencing hearing in which evidence was presented as to aggravating and mitigating circumstances, Petitioner was sentenced to death for the murder, to life imprisonment for each count of burglary and to ten (10) years for possessing a firearm. Judgments and sentences were entered accordingly.

Petitioner moved to withdraw his plea within ten days of the pronouncement of sentence. The request was denied. Petitioner has timely filed a petition for Writ of Certiorari regarding the validity of his plea and accompanying sentence. We have assumed jurisdiction and received a response from the State. Based on the record before us, we find that the Writ should be denied and the convictions affirmed.

During the late night hours of October 19, 1985, Petitioner and a companion, Mikell Smith, decided to steal a car so that they could go riding around. They went to an Oklahoma City supermarket where they saw Rick Patterson walking toward a car. When Patterson opened the car, Petitioner forced him, at gunpoint, to slide over to the passenger's side. Smith got into the back seat behind Patterson.

Petitioner drove the car to a deserted area of town, where the two men tied or taped Patterson's hands and mouth and then put him into the trunk of the car. Petitioner drove east on I-40 to another isolated place. When Petitioner and Smith opened the trunk, the men found that Patterson had freed his hands. They tied his hands behind his back, forced him to stand up next to a tree and then shot him. Fearing that Patterson was still alive and could crawl away, another shot was fired. At the sentencing hearing, the State introduced the pretrial statement made by Petitioner to Oklahoma City police officers. In that statement, Petitioner confessed to having been involved with the murders but claimed that Mikell Smith was the one who had done the shooting. Subsequent to his guilty plea, Petitioner testified at Mikell Smith's trial and in direct contrast to his previous statement, denied that Smith had been present at the killing. Petitioner claimed that his first statement to police was coerced and that he had lied to clear his girlfriend, notwithstanding the fact that his girlfriend was not implicated in either statement.

In addition to the statements made by Petitioner, the State presented testimony that Petitioner had bragged of the murder on several occasions. Evidence concerning the burglaries to which Petitioner had pled guilty, the firearms charge and several prior convictions were presented as evidence supporting the aggravating circumstances. In an attempt to mitigate against the death penalty, Petitioner presented evidence concerning his unhappy childhood, the love he felt for his son and his ability to cope in prison.

After hearing the evidence, the trial court found the existence of four aggravating circumstances: (1) that the crime was committed for the purpose of avoiding lawful arrest and prosecution; (2) that the defendant had previously been convicted of felonies involving the use or threat of violence to the person; (3) that there exists a probability the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence which would constitute a continuing threat to society; and (4) that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel. After specifically finding that the mitigating evidence did not outweigh the aggravating factors, the court sentenced Petitioner to death for the murder of Patterson.

Amnesty International

Roger Berget was executed in Oklahoma on 8 June 2000. He was sentenced to death for the 1985 abduction and murder of Rick Patterson. Roger Berget told police that he and Mikell Smith had abducted Patterson, but that it was Smith who had shot the victim. The prosecutor agreed not to seek the death penalty against Berget if he would plead guilty to first-degree murder and testify against Smith, in return for a life prison sentence. Berget agreed, but changed his mind after meeting Smith when they were held in the same jail. He said that he would refuse to testify against Smith and would instead accept sole responsibility for the murder. He pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to death by a judge. Mikell Smith was sentenced to death at a jury trial, but he was granted a new sentencing. In 1995, in exchange for a guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Smith has since been convicted of two killings of fellow inmates and the attempted murder of a guard, and is serving further life sentences without parole for these crimes. Other than at his own and Smith's trials, Roger Berget consistently maintained that it was Smith who shot Rick Patterson.