[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----SOUTH DAKOTA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Mar 25 15:56:08 CST 2005
Interfaith group holds anti-death penalty vigil
A few dozen activists gathered outside the State Penitentiary holding
South Dakota's 4 death row inmates Friday for a vigil against the death
After a musical call to prayer and a declaration of the aims of the
interfaith group sponsoring the event, Bishop Creighton Robertson of the
South Dakota Episcopal Diocese led the group in prayer.
"Remember all those who have been killed in the name of justice,"
Mark Sanderson of the Interfaith Task Force Against the Death Penalty said
there are ways other than execution to deal with violent criminals.
"Judicial killing is a gut reaction against being violated," Sanderson
Aside from the moral objections to execution, there are practical reasons
to abolish it, Sanderson said.
Executions cost more than life imprisonment, he said. Sanderson cited
studies that show a disproportionate number of minorities receive the
death penalty compared with white criminals.
"It isn't fair in a lot of ways," he said.
But supporters say execution is the only way to make sure certain
criminals do not kill again.
Rep. Tom Hennies, R-Rapid City, said he approves of the death penalty.
Hennies, a former Rapid City police chief, said executions in South Dakota
are cheaper than just about anywhere else in the nation.
"It doesn't have to cost more that life imprisonment," Hennies said. Some
death penalty appeals stretch out for 15 or 20 years, which makes the
process unnecessarily expensive, he said.
Following the vigil, the group offered a living will for people to sign.
The notarized document says that, in the event someone is murdered, they
wish that their killer not be executed.
South Dakota had the death penalty when it became a state in 1889, but
abolished it in 1915. The practice was reinstated in 1939 but abolished
again from 1977 to 1979 after the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily ruled the
death penalty unconstitutional. The current death penalty statute has been
in place since 1979.
14 people have been executed by hanging in South Dakota since 1877, most
in the late 1800's. The state's last execution occurred in 1947, when
George Sitts was electrocuted for murdering two law officers near
The 4 men on South Dakota's death row are: Charles Russell Rhines,
convicted of the 1992 killing of Donnivan Schaeffer during the burglary of
a Rapid City doughnut shop; Donald Moeller, convicted of the 1990 rape and
murder of 9-year-old Becky O'Connell of Sioux Falls; and Briley Piper of
Anchorage, Alaska, and Elijah Page of Athens, Texas, who both pleaded
guilty to the 2000 beating death of Chester Allan Poage of Spearfish.
(source: Associated Press)
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