Gregory Co. man accused of murder again asks for trial relocation
DALLAS, S.D. -- A man accused of murdering a Gregory County woman is again asking for his trial to be moved. Earlier this year, Chance Harruff's trial, that includes first- and second-degree murder charges, was moved from Gregory County to Fort P...
DALLAS, S.D. - A man accused of murdering a Gregory County woman is again asking for his trial to be moved.
Earlier this year, Chance Harruff's trial, that includes first- and second-degree murder charges, was moved from Gregory County to Fort Pierre because more than half of potential jurors indicated they had formed an opinion that Harruff is guilty of murder. In court documents filed Monday, Harruff's attorney asked for the trial to again be moved due to juror bias.
The trial stems from June 2017, when court documents say that Harruff and 38-year-old Kristi Olson got into an argument and Harruff allegedly struck Olson with a "mule strength punch" to her chest, knocking her to the floor. Harruff - whose residence is listed as Hamill, a Tripp County town about 35 miles northwest of Gregory - then allegedly left the scene, not knowing if Olson needed medical assistance.
When officers arrived at Olson's Dallas residence, they found Olson with possible bruising on her neck. She was transported to a hospital in Gregory where she was pronounced dead.
According to court documents, family members and law enforcement officers told South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation officers the couple had a volatile and violent relationship that led to several previous incidents of domestic violence, but Olson always refused to notify authorities. The couple had lived together, but Harruff recently moved out of Olson's residence before her death.
Judge Bobbi Rank has yet to rule on Harruff's request, but if not granted, Harruff's attorneys say he will not receive a fair trial.
The pre-trial survey of 171 potential Stanley County jurors show 69 are candidates for the trial, and many could be disqualified for reasons not identified in the survey, according to court documents.
Thirty-three responders voiced "strong expressions of guilt or opinions on the case" and 14 have a personal relationship with a major witness. Another 10 are family members of law enforcement or prosecution, and eight are domestic violence or sexual assault victims, which could make them biased due to the nature of the alleged crime, court documents state.
"Additionally, this number (69 potential jurors) fails to account for the plethora of potential jurors who indicated they were too busy ... to be a juror due to calving/kidding/spraying season," court documents state. "Based upon the numbers of opinions voiced, remarks made, and connections ... there exists prejudice in the minds of Stanley County residents sufficient to raise reasonable apprehension that Defendant will not receive a fair and impartial trial in Stanley County.
Additionally, Harruff asked for the trial, scheduled for May, to be postponed.
One of his attorneys, Raleigh Hansman, will be unable to travel outside of Sioux Falls beginning April 23 due to pregnancy-related issues, according to court documents. Harruff requested Monday his trial be rescheduled to accommodate Hansman's pregnancy.
Harruff was charged with second-degree murder, domestic abuse second-degree murder, first-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.
The difference between the first- and second-degree murder charges, according to South Dakota Codified Law, is that second-degree murder occurs "without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular person, including any unborn child." Unlike first-degree murder, second-degree murder is a Class B felony and does not carry the death penalty.
First-degree manslaughter is a Class C felony, with a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $50,000 fine and is done while in the heat of passion, and the killing is not excusable or justifiable.