Death-penalty hearing begins today for convicted murderer who killed Tecumseh cellmate

Death-penalty hearing begins today for convicted murderer who killed Tecumseh cellmate
Patrick Schroeder made his first court appearance in May 2017 after his cellmate, Terry Berry, was found dead the month before. (World-Herald News Service)

TECUMSEH — A court hearing begins Thursday morning to decide whether an already convicted murderer will get the death penalty for killing his cellmate.

Patrick Schroeder pleaded guilty last year to choking his cellmate, Terry Berry, to death in a solitary confinement cell at the Tecumseh State Prison.

Schroeder was serving a life sentence for the 2006 slaying of a Pawnee City farmer. Berry was in prison on a bad check charge and was nearing his release on parole.

Schroeder, 40, has told authorities that he did not want a cellmate and that he attacked Berry, 22, on April 15 because he ignored warnings to quit talking.

The slaying raised questions about housing two inmates in a cell designed for one inmate, and pairing a lifer with a younger inmate about to be released.

A three-judge panel will begin hearing evidence at 9 a.m. The hearing could continue into Friday.

Schroeder has taken the unprecedented step of dismissing his lawyers and acting as his own attorney. That is a first for a hearing to decide if someone is sentenced to death or life in prison.

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