Suspect must be guilty of aggravating factor to get death penalty
In South Dakota, the jury must find a suspect guilty of at least one aggravating circumstance in order to impose the death penalty.
There are currently three men on death row in our state – Charles Rhines, Briley Piper and Rodney Berget. In the past decade, three men have been executed. Elijah Page in 2007 for the murder of Chester Allan Poage; Eric Robert in 2012 for the murder of correctional officer Ron Johnson; and Donald Moeller in 2012 for the murder of Becky O'Connell.
Anyone under 18 at the time of the crime is constitutionally exempt from death penalty charges.
These are the aggravating factors:
The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or depraved (or involved torture)
The capital offense was committed during the commission of, attempt of, or escape from a specified felony (such as robbery, kidnapping, rape, sodomy, arson, oral copulation, train wrecking, carjacking, criminal gang activity, drug dealing, or aircraft piracy)- The defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death for one or more persons in addition to the victim of the offense- The murder was committed for pecuniary gain or pursuant to an agreement that the defendant would receive something of value
The defendant caused or directed another to commit murder, or the defendant procured the commission of the offense by payment, promise of payment, or anything of pecuniary value
The murder was committed to avoid or prevent arrest, to effect an escape, or to conceal the commission of a crime
The defendant has been convicted of, or committed, a prior murder, a felony involving violence, or other serious felony
The capital offense was committed by a person who is incarcerated, has escaped, is on probation, is in jail, or is under a sentence of imprisonment
Any murder is wantonly vile, horrible, and inhuman if the victim is less than 13 years of age
The victim was a government employee, including peace officers, police officers, federal agents, firefighters, judges, jurors, defense attorneys, and prosecutors, in the course of his or her duties
The person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officers or fireman
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