Advocates of Scaling Back Death Penalty in SD Vow to Continue
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
PIERRE, S.D. -- The South Dakota Senate has rejected a measure that would have limited the scope of the death penalty.
Supporters felt the latest version would have appealed to most lawmakers, but opponents raised longstanding arguments about seeking justice for victims.
The measure, which cleared a Senate committee last week, would have only allowed South Dakota prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in cases where the victim was a law-enforcement officer or firefighter.
Denny Davis, director of the group South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said capital punishment should be abolished altogether. But he felt the effort was a step in the right direction, even though it suffered the same fate as previous bills.
"This issue needs to be seen, it needs to be dealt with, it needs to be debated," Davis urged.
Davis questioned how a largely "pro-life" state could be OK with taking another human's life.
But opponents countered they want to protect others from harm if a convicted killer goes free someday, while adding those who have committed the most violent crimes have to answer for them.
Davis argued life in prison without parole is already a death sentence, and vowed to keep working with bill sponsors on reforms.
Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Yankton, the bill's sponsor and a former judge, cited the emotional toll he felt from a death-penalty case.
Others contended it causes psychological pain for jurors, and is a drain on taxpayers because of lengthy appeals.
John Fitzgerald, Lawrence County State's Attorney, testified South Dakota has a strong and fair system.
"It's never automatic," Fitzgerald pointed out. "No matter how outrageous the murder is, and it's infrequently applied in our state."
South Dakota has administered 20 executions throughout state history, with the latest in 2019. It's had four others since 2007, but none before that going back to the late 1970s, when capital punishment was reinstated.
get more stories like this via email
BALTIMORE, Md. -- Maryland civil rights groups are proposing a lawsuit against Baltimore County if it adopts its current redistricting plan, claiming …
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nearly seven in ten Americans say billionaires are not paying their fair share in taxes, according to a new survey. Among likely …
BISMARCK, N.D. -- Over the coming weeks, North Dakotans will be clicking the "purchase" button as they order holiday gifts online, and fraud experts …
MINNEAPOLIS -- Several regional labor groups rallied in Minneapolis on Wednesday, demanding state leaders take action to reflect the sacrifices made …
GREENE, Iowa -- The proposed Build Back Better bill is getting attention for a host of funding possibilities, including one area flying under the …
MADISON, Wis. -- In a four-three decision this week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court backed a "least-change" approach to redistricting in the state…
OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Michiganders are mourning the loss of four students after this week's school shooting at Oxford High School, and advocates …
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- Labor protests and strikes are on the upswing this fall, compared with 2020 when everyone hunkered as the pandemic closed …