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Death Penalty Repeal Effort in South Dakota Legislature

Eric Robert and Donald Moeller are the names of two high profile criminals who met criteria for the harshest penalty currently allowed in South Dakota.  Death by lethal injection marked the end of their days.

Steve Hickey
(Dan Peters/KSOO)

Both of those executions occurred in 2012, which stirred debate about the legitimacy of the state’s role in administering the death penalty.  Expect more haggling in the 2014 South Dakota Legislative session.

Representative Steve Hickey (R) who is also a pastor will introduce a bill that will repeal the ability for South Dakota to conduct executions.  Previously he has been a strong supporter of the death penalty, but now finds the reasons supporting that method are faulty.  “I’ve found that the death penalty doesn’t provide closure, deter, make prisons safer or saves money.  There’s other people that have tried this in the past and there’s some energy right now to go forth with it.  We’ve done a survey in the Legislature and there’s more support than you’d think.”

Currently South Dakota has three prisoners on death row at the State Penitentiary.  First is Charles Russell Rhines who was convicted of the murder of Donnivan Schaeffer in 1993. Second is Briley Piper who kidnapped and killed Chester Allan Poage in 2000.  The other is Rodney Berget who killed prison guard R. J. Johnson in 2011.


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