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Editorial: Penalty of death is applicable in this case

The 2009 death of a Mitchell girl may result in the death of a person who allegedly committed the heinous crime. Jasmine Guevara was killed Nov. 10 near Mitchell in rural Hanson County. Charged with first-degree murder is Alexander Salgado, who is accused of conspiring with a 15-year-old to kill Guevara. Again rises the ugly head of the death penalty. After George Sitts was put to death in South Dakota in 1947, 60 years passed before the state again resorted to capital punishment. Sitts killed two law-enforcement officers during a late-night chase. The man who followed Sitts on the death-penalty roll was Elijah Page, who was killed by lethal injection on July 11, 2007, for his role in a torturous killing of a man near Spearfish in 2000.

Page's death sparked a round of protests about the death penalty here in South Dakota, although 13 states -- including neighbors such as Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota -- do not have the death penalty as a punishment option.

The Daily Republic supports capital punishment, but we lend that support cautiously and hope it is only used sparingly within South Dakota's borders. In 1947, George Sitts deserved death after killing two law officers. Elijah Page did, too, and especially so after admitting to his brutal killing of Chester Poage.

In Salgado's case, prosecutors feel the killing of Guevara was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhumane in that it involved torture, depravity of intent or an aggravated battery to the victim.

We agree.

What we don't yet know is that Salgado is guilty of the charges he faces. He is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. Too, we know not the role played by M.D., his alleged accomplice in the murder. Because M.D. is a child, her name has remained anonymous.

If Salgado indeed is found guilty of luring Guevara into the countryside, cutting her throat, placing her in the trunk of a car and then setting that car afire, he should face death as punishment for this terrible crime. But the case against him must be air-tight.

It's important to note that we are not calling for a change in state law. We are not asking the Legislature to allow the death penalty in South Dakota for this particular case. That already has been done.

We also acknowledge and understand the strong emotions and opinions that always accompany the death penalty.

However, we must also note that the death penalty is legal in South Dakota. And being so, certain cases deserve that grave consideration.

The brutal and unnecessary death of Guevara, a high school student in Mitchell, is one of those cases.