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Alfonso Rodriguez Recieves Death Sentence

The man convicted of kidnapping and killing University of North Dakota student, Dru Sjodin, was sentenced to death Wednesday by a U.S. district judge in Fargo, N.D.

This story printed by The Star Tribune, written by Chuck Haga, on Wednesday had a lot of big issues to deal with. The main issue was the issue of the finality of the decision. Yes Alfonso Rodriguez was sentenced to death but he may not be executed for several years. The appeals process could delay any closure for the Sjodin family for several years. Yet, Haga had to make the story substantial and give as much closure to the event as possible. With the amount of press coverage and the emotions tied to this story Haga had to be very careful how he address the information and how the story was organized. I thought that it was particularly interesting to see the way that Haga handled the lead. The lead was cluttered with names and titles, which is different from the normal lead format.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. is expected to move another step closer to execution today as U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson is scheduled to formally sentence the repeat sex offender to death for the 2003 kidnapping and killing of Dru Sjodin.

With the amount of press covering this event from its beginning in 2004 The Star Tribune wasn’t the only local media outlet to cover the story. The Pioneer Press also ran a story about Rodriguez’s sentencing. It was written by Dave Kolpak. The Kolpak version had a different and less difficult lead to read.

The man convicted of killing college student Dru Sjodin was formally sentenced to death Thursday by a judge who said it was the most difficult day of his life.

Kolpak’s lead was shorter and more concise yet still mentioned the victim in the lead. Now in a case like this the victim’s name can go in the lead because it is a big enough event that just about everyone in Minnesota and North Dakota has heard of Dru Sjodin and many people are away of the case. However, I think that the Kolpak lead was much more sensible because he delayed the details of the judge’s name until the second graph. He also delayed the name of the convicted man, Rodriguez, to the second graph which I though was appropriate.

While both stories were well written and interesting to read, I felt that the Kolpak version lacked much of the chronology that I would have appreciated being given. I felt that the length of the Haga story was much more appropriate for a story of this magnitude. This sentence was the first death penalty sentence in the state of North Dakota in more than 100 years and the outpouring of support for the family of Sjodin was immense. I felt that the chronology given by Haga gave the story more closure than did the Kolpak version. However, I really liked the way that Kolpak decided to end his story. In most cases I’m not fond of ending a story in a quote but this just seemed fitting.

Before the sentencing, about 15 of Sjodin's relatives and friends spoke about her life and the impact of her death. Her mother, Linda Walker, was the last of the group to speak.
"I have been told to talk from my heart," Walker said. "My heart has been torn into a million little pieces."