Patrick Schroeder was sentenced to death by the State of Nebraska for a prison murder. According to court documents Patrick Schroeder was already serving a life sentence for murder when he murdered his cell mate by strangulation. At his trial Patrick Schroeder would tell the judge if he was given another life sentence he would keep killing until he received the death penalty. Patrick Schroeder was sentenced to death.
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The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death sentence of a prison inmate who admitted that he killed his cellmate, then told a corrections officer afterward that he would “kill again” if he weren’t sentenced to death.
Patrick Schroeder was already serving a life sentence for the 2006 slaying of a Pawnee County farmer when he was charged, and convicted, of choking his cellmate to death at the Tecumseh State Prison in 2017.
“If given another life term, I will kill again and we will be right back in court doing this all over again,” Schroeder wrote in a statement shortly after cellmate Terry Berry was found unconscious in their cell. Berry was pronounced dead four days later at a Lincoln hospital.
On Friday, the Supreme Court considered the automatic appeal granted to all inmates who receive the death sentence.
Schroeder, now 42, served as his own attorney during his trial for the murder of Berry, a 22-year-old who was placed in a solitary confinement cell designed for one inmate over Schroeder’s objections.
Berry was within two weeks of his release on a conviction for second-degree forgery, but Schroeder opposed being paired with him, calling him unsanitary and “a loudmouth, a punk,” who would not quit talking. Schroeder told his jailers that “something was going to happen” unless Berry was moved out of his cell.
At his trial, Schroeder submitted no evidence in his defense, or in opposition to prosecutors’ arguments that he deserved the death penalty.
But attorneys appointed to present his automatic appeal objected to the imposition of the death penalty, saying that the three-judge panel that sentenced him to death ignored mitigating circumstances, such as Schroeder’s dysfunctional childhood and the undue pressure caused by pairing him with a cellmate he detested.
Sarah Newell of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy also argued that the state had an ulterior motive for seeking the death penalty — “to avoid and detract” from possible civil liability for placing two incompatible inmates in a cell designed for one prisoner.
Prosecutors with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, meanwhile, argued that Schroeder was not under “unusual” pressure, but acted to kill Berry out of “displeasure,” and that his actions were “deliberate” and “pretty cold-blooded.”
The three-judge panel that sentenced Schroeder to death ruled that while he “expressly welcomed” the death penalty, “it is the law, and not his wishes, that compels this panel’s ultimate conclusion.”
The Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Judge Jeffrey Funke, said that even though a corrections officer had a “gut feeling” that Berry was in danger by being placed with Schroeder and had even tried to get the assignment reversed, Schroeder made no formal request that Berry be removed and did not indicate that his cellmate was in “mortal danger.”
In comparing the case with other death penalty cases, the court found that it was similar to the case of David Dunster, who was serving a life sentence for two murders when he killed his cellmate and was sentenced to die. While the two cases are not “a color match,” they were sufficiently similar to justify the death sentence for Schroeder, Funke wrote.
Patrick Schroeder Death
atrick Schroeder, the man sent to death row in 2018 for killing his cellmate, died Monday, according to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.
Laura Strimple, chief of staff for the state’s prisons system, said the 45-year-old died at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, which is home to death row.
The cause of Schroeder’s death has not been determined, she said.
He is the fifth death row inmate to die while awaiting execution by the state.
Arthur Gales, 55, died last year of cancer. In 2015, Michael Ryan, 66, died of natural causes. David Dunster, 56, died of a health-related issue in 2011, and Roger Bjorklund, 39, of a heart attack in 2006.
“Mr. Schroeder had a hard and complicated life and we are saddened to hear of his death. His death like all deaths leaves behind people who loved him and who will miss him now that he is gone,” said Todd Lancaster of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy.
Schroeder’s death leaves 11 men on Nebraska’s death row.
As is the case whenever an inmate dies in custody, a grand jury will review the death.
In 2018, Carey Dean Moore was the last inmate to be executed in Nebraska.
Moore, 60, was sentenced to death on two counts of first-degree murder in Douglas County in the 1979 deaths of Omaha cab drivers Reuel Van Ness Jr. and Maynard Helgeland. He had been on death row 38 years.
Schroeder had been serving a life sentence for killing 75-year-old Pawnee City farmer Kenny Albers when on April 15, 2017, he strangled Terry Berry in a cell at the Tecumseh prison.
Schroeder pleaded guilty to that crime and didn’t fight the death sentence.
When the three-judge panel pronounced his sentence, Judge Vicky Johnson said it was the law, and not the defendant’s wishes, that compelled the judges to choose a death sentence.
“Mr. Berry’s murder was disturbing in its own right and especially cruel,” particularly because he was two weeks from his release and Schroeder knew it, she said
Prosecutors alleged just one aggravator needed to make the case eligible for the death penalty — that Schroeder had previously been convicted of another murder — and Schroeder, who represented himself, chose not to fight the death penalty and made no argument or case for why the judges shouldn’t give it to him.
He admitted to strangling Berry, 22, because he wouldn’t stop talking.
At the time, Schroeder was in prison on a life sentence for beating Albers with a nightstick during a robbery in 2006 and dumping him, still alive, into an abandoned well. Albers died there.
Last year, the state agreed to pay $479,000 to Berry’s family to settle the lawsuit it filed over his killing.
Schroeder’s case brought questions and scrutiny from state senators and prisoner advocates alike who saw the killing as a failure of a prison system beset by one problem after another. Many asked how Berry had come to share a cell with Schroeder.
At Schroeder’s plea hearing, Assistant Nebraska Attorney General Doug Warner said Schroeder and Berry had shared cell No. 16 in a segregation unit from April 10 to April 15, the night a corrections officer doing normal checks came by and Schroeder said there was “something he needed to get out of his cell.
Berry was lying unconscious on the floor with a towel around his neck.
He was taken to a Lincoln hospital, where he died five days later.