SD woman asks for stay in Moeller executionDonna Nichols, whose mother married Moeller's stepfather, said in her filing that Moeller wasn't psychologically qualified to dismiss his appeals.
By: Dirk Lammers , The Associated Press
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — A woman with loose family ties to South Dakota death row inmate Donald Moeller asked a federal judge Monday to stop Moeller's upcoming execution.
Moeller, 60, has said he's ready to accept death as the consequence for the 1990 kidnapping, rape and murder of 9-year-old Becky O'Connell. His execution is set for the week of Oct. 28.
Donna Nichols, whose mother married Moeller's stepfather, said in her filing that Moeller wasn't psychologically qualified to dismiss his appeals. She claims that Moeller's years of confinement and psychological problems have made him incapable of making voluntary and rational decisions.
Nichols, of Sioux Falls, did not appear at the Monday hearing. Her Rapid City-based attorney, Robert Van Norman, asked U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol via teleconference to issue a stay and appoint Nichols as a friend of the court.
Moeller, who recently asked Judge Piersol to dismiss his appeals and let him die, said there's no real connection between him and Nichols.
"She's not family," he told the judge. "She's not been a friend."
Piersol took the attorneys' arguments under advisement and said he'll issue a prompt decision.
The judge has upheld the constitutionality of Moeller's conviction and sentence, but he hadn't ruled on the constitutionality of a South Dakota Department of Corrections execution policy that was changed last year.
Arkansas attorneys who had been representing Moeller had hoped to press forward with claims that South Dakota's use of the drug pentobarbital in a one-drug method would inflict cruel and unusual punishment, but his successful request to halt his appeals made that impossible.
Moeller's new attorney, Mark Marshall, said Monday that the motion to appoint Nichols as a friend in the case appears to be an effort by the Arkansas attorneys to continue to insert their wishes over Moeller's.
Marshall said Moeller wants the execution to proceed.
Authorities say Moeller kidnapped O'Connell from a Sioux Falls convenience store, drove her to a secluded area near the Big Sioux River, then raped and killed her. Her naked body was found the next day. She had been stabbed and her throat was slashed.
Attorney General Marty Jackley said Moeller has accepted responsibility for his actions and understands the lethal injection process.
Last week, Eric Robert became only the 17th person to be executed in the state or Dakota Territory since 1877.
Robert, who pleaded guilty to killing a prison guard, is the first South Dakota inmate to die under the state's new single-drug lethal injection method.