"In South Dakota, if we must use the death penalty....shouldn't we at least make sure we do it right?" Steven Miller, the attorney for death row inmate Briley Piper.... confronts the South Dakota Supreme Court, saying an error was made in the decision making process that led to his conviction.
Did Briley Piper understand what it meant when he plead guilty to the 2000 murder of Chester Allen Poage in Rapid City?
Today before the Supreme Court, his attorney said "no"...there was a critical part of the process Piper didn't understand....and because of that the case should be reviewed again.
"Why in the world are we here again? Let's just do it right."Attorney Steven Miller didn't parse words before the Supreme Court, telling the justices the lower court judge and Piper's previous attorneys gave him bad information, leading him to believe that by pleading guilty...which he did...his only option for sentencing was by a judge....which is not the case. "Before Briley Piper's choice to plead guilty made back in 2001...can be forever held against him ....it must be true that when he entered that plea ....not at some later time...but when he entered that plea.....he was given correct advice as to the rights he had and the fact he was waiving them."
In 2011, the Supreme Court ordered a jury sentencing for Piper based on concerns over was piper was told. And that jury also sentenced Piper to death. Assistant Attorney General Paul Swedlund told the court, if there was a case where the death penalty was valid, this was it. "Over the course of a 4 hour long ordeal, Allen Poage was assaulted with a gun, kicked, bound, poisoned with acid, kidnapped, stripped naked, beaten, buried in a snowbank, shoved into freezing creek water, bludgeoned, taunted, scalped, drowned, stabbed, stoned and posthumously robbed."
But Piper attorney Miller told the court, the entire process must be questioned because he maintains it did not serve Piper the way it should have. Assistant Attorney General Swedlund told the court....even if mistakes were made by Piper's attorneys in 2001....a court is not necessarily obliged to correct them. "Its not incumbent on the court to correct defense strategies."
As with any Supreme Court appeal, there is no set timeline on when a decision will be rendered and announced.