McDougal found not guilty of murder, all counts

A Mitchell man was found not guilty of murder Friday in Davison County's first murder trial since 2006. Donald McDougal, 50, was found not guilty of first-degree murder and alternate counts of second-degree murder and first- and second-degree man...

Donald McDougal walks out of the Davison County Courthouse and shakes hands with Davison County Sheriff Steve Brink. McDougal approached Brink to thank him for how the Sheriff’s Office handled security during the trial. McDougal was found not guilty on all counts in the death of his wife Janie McDougal on Sept. 1, 2014. (Matt Gade/Republic)

A Mitchell man was found not guilty of murder Friday in Davison County’s first murder trial since 2006.
Donald McDougal, 50, was found not guilty of first-degree murder and alternate counts of second-degree murder and first- and second-degree manslaughter in the death of his wife, Janie McDougal, on Sept. 1, 2014, in their Mitchell Main Street apartment. Donald contested, saying Janie’s death was a suicide.
The verdict concluded a nearly two-week trial.
“I have no comment,” McDougal said after the verdict. “I want to thank the jury.”
Donald McDougal was charged with second-degree murder and first- and second-degree manslaughter in the alternative, meaning McDougal could have been found guilty of any of these charges if the jury did not find him guilty of the most serious first-degree murder charge.
“We’re so glad that Don could be reunited with his family now,” said Chris Nipe, McDougal’s attorney. “It’s obvious that he hasn’t had a chance to mourn his wife, and now he has a chance to do that, so it’s a very happy day for their family.”
Both Nipe and Davison County State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins praised the jury.
“Myself and my office want to thank the Davison County jury for their diligent and very hard work in this case,” Miskimins said. “They did their job, and they did it very well, and we appreciate their service to the citizens of Davison County.”
Before the jury entered deliberation Friday, the attorneys delivered closing statements.
“What we have here is a man who gets angry, who was sick and tired of his wife. She is a loud, annoying, sloppy drunk,” Miskimins said. “The defendant was sick of it, and he strangled her to death. He did not know his victim's body would be able to speak.”
Miskimins recapped the state’s case against Donald McDougal. He mentioned the hemorrhaging that spanned multiple muscle layers in Janie McDougal’s neck. He reminded the jury of Minnehaha County Coroner Kenneth Snell’s opinion that two traumatic forces were applied to her neck and that the horizontal ligature mark was “consistent with homicide.”
Miskimins emphasized the testimony of Kim Degen, the McDougals’ neighbor, who said she heard Donald and Janie McDougal fighting before everything became quiet.
“We’re all lucky to have a witness like Kim Degen come forward. She’s a real person who has nothing to do with this case, and her story happens to contradict the story of the defendant,” Miskimins said. “The thing we know for sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, is dead women don't yell. Janie McDougal was alive when the defendant came home. He killed her.”
Miskimins also discussed Donald McDougal’s angry, vulgar statements about his wife during a police interview and said there were no signs of a struggle because Janie was too drunk and small to fight back against Donald, who was more than a foot taller.
“The defendant was the last one to see Janie alive. The defendant is counting on you to ignore the science. Your verdict will show him if he is right,” Miskimins said.
Nipe countered, emphasizing that Donald McDougal is innocent until proven guilty.
“We may never really know how Janie McDougal died, and it's hard not to have an answer, but this is not the place to make up answers if you don’t have it,” Nipe said. “If you doubt, if you hesitate that this was a homicide of any kind, or that Don did it, you must say Don is not guilty.”
Nipe reminded the jurors Janie McDougal tried to kill herself three times in the past two years before her death. He also said Donald McDougal’s statements when police left the room - when he appeared to cry and asked, “Janie, why did you do it?” - were more telling than what he said to their faces.
“He’s loud and sometimes crude, and what you see is what you get. What you see in that video (of the police questioning) is Don through and through. He’s loud and direct and denied ever hurting his wife that night,” Nipe said. “People reveal their true nature when officers walk out, and so did Don.”
Nipe then took time to cast doubt on Kim Degen’s testimony, saying it was strange she didn’t mention anything to police until the day after Janie McDougal’s death.
“No one supports Kim Degen’s testimony. Disregard her testimony. She has no support from any other witness,” Nipe said.
Nipe also said Donald McDougal was a “simple man” who would be unable to stage a crime scene and said there was no motive. He said Donald’s two children, who loved their mother, thought Donald was innocent.
“If you don’t have an answer, trust the children. This is not a time to make up answers. It's not a guessing game,” Nipe said. “This man lost his wife more than a year ago, and he has been living with that since. It's time to stop. He's an innocent man. Trust the children. Tell them he is innocent.”
Deputy Attorney General Robert Mayer was given the final word before the jury left the room.
Mayer said the defense’s crime scene reconstructionist failed to exactly recreate the ligature mark found on Janie McDougal’s neck. Mayer said this was the foundation of a house of cards that, along with statements from other experts and a renowned forensic textbook, did not hold up to scrutiny.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the defense’s house of cards crumbles. We submit there is no reasonable doubt that the defendant killed Janie. Somebody had to do it,” Mayer said. “Hold him accountable. Vote guilty.”
The last jury trial for an alleged murder in Davison County took place in 2006, when a jury found Kelly Boyer guilty of killing 18-month-old Blaize Perry on Oct. 30, 2004. Boyer was convicted on Jan. 17, 2006, and is serving a life sentence in prison.

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