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Executions few in SD

By Northern Plains News

Since South Dakota’s reinstatement of the death penalty in 1979, the Mount Rushmore State is among the least likely states in the region and nation to actually execute criminals in capital cases.

Republican state senator Steve Hickey from Sioux Falls said earlier this month he would submit legislation to repeal the death penalty in the 2014 South Dakota Legislature.

Only Kansas, with no executions, and Wyoming, with one execution, are regional states with death penalties that have conducted fewer executions.

South Dakota, Montana and Nebraska have each executed three people, far fewer than more populated states in the region. Missouri executed 68 people from 1977 to 2012, Ohio 49 and Indiana 20.

During that same period, nationally, state and federal governments executed 1,320 people — 1,317 by states alone.

Southern states by far have executed the most criminals for capital cases, more than three-fourths of the nation’s total executions at 1,076 during that period. Texas alone had approximately 25 percent of all executions during the period, 492.

The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics compiled the data.

According to the South Dakota Department of Corrections, South Dakota has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the death penalty. The state entered the Union in 1889 with the death penalty, abolished it in 1915, re-instated it in 1939, abolished again it from 1977 to 1979 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision banning it in Furman v. Georgia as cruel and unusual punishment, then re-instated it in 1979 as it and other states retooled it to allow it to pass Constitutional muster.

Since 1877, according to the State Historical Society, 18 people have been executed under territorial or state authority. The first person executed was Jack McCall for killing Wild Bill Hickok. The last person executed was Donald Moeller in 2012 for the murder of Becky O’Connell.

Three men currently sit on death row.