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Hoffman to Co-Sponsor Hickey Death Penalty Repeal Bill

Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) made waves last summer when he told his parishioners (strangely long word... what if we said parishites?) that he had changed his mind on capital punishment. The Christian conservative said in June that he would draft a bill to repeal South Dakota's death penalty. Rep. Rev. Hickey told KSOO listeners yesterday that he's following through on that promise and will sponsor a death-penalty repeal bill in Pierre during the 2014 session.

According to Todd Epp's report, Hickey says there is "more support for the repeal among legislators than one might think."

I've already found one legislator ready to co-sponsor Hickey's bill. Rep. Charles B. Hoffman (R-23/Eureka) says bring it on... and hang 'em high!

I will sign onto Hickey's Death Penalty repealer bill. The way we perform the death penalty; like putting a loved animal down, is the stupidest anti-crime measure on the American judicial books. Public hanging would set some kids on a new crime free path but putting a horrendous criminal to death by way of pleasure sleeping away with no pain; not [Rep. Charles B. Hoffman, e-mail to Madville Times, 2013.12.05].

That may not sound like support for straight repeal of the death penalty. It sounds like Rep. Hoffman supports capital punishment in principle, just not in current... execution. But his point about deterrence reflects what Rev. Hickey said to his flock last summer. As I described his sermon in my June coverage, Hickey says the death penalty as practiced has no proven deterrent effect. He thinks it would if we made it "swift, painful, ugly, and public." But such cruel punishment, even if made usual, would be unconstitutional and bad for our souls.

When can the state kill a citizen? That is a central question of statecraft. Our state plans to kill a man in January, the same week our legislators will convene for the 2014 session. There is no better time for Hickey and Hoffman to lead their colleagues in this important conversation.


  1. Roger Elgersma 2013.12.05

    Death penalty produces higher violent crime rates. That is why it is not a deterent. It teaches that killing is what we do to people we do not like.
    Jackley thought he was so smooth when he and Daugaard emphasised that we only kill someone who does very horific crimes so for once the murder rate did not go up immediately like it did when we executed Paige. But the violent crime rate spiked in Sioux Falls. Now the murder rate is creeping up to match the violent crime so the end effect was the same. Statistically it is very typical for the murder rate to go up in the city of an execution. We had two murders on the court docket the year before Paige was executed and seven the next year.
    The first of those executed for murdering the jailer had no violent past and he in effect a life sentence and began to loath the system in prison. He hated the system so bad that he would not let his lawyer tell how he had tried as a child to do real well in school even though he was the son of a single mother. He had tried and got maximum sentencing. His partner in killing Johnson had been bad to the bone since day one and tried to get a retrial since he wanted to be a mentor to his son. Not the best quality mentor but it got his execution delayed a year. The best one, not saying good one, got the harshest punishment before and after he murdered and the worst one gets some slack. People that make that bad and inconsistent of decisions should not be in charge of killing people. And that was the difference when both were white.

  2. Phil Schreck 2013.12.05

    So, let me get this straight. A pastor wants to repeal the death penalty. Not because state sanctioned killing is against pretty much everything Jesus preached and uncivilized....but because it's not uncivilized and brutal enough???

  3. interested party 2013.12.05

    jesus was a populist, too: peltier is america's mandela.

  4. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.05

    Did you hear Mandela died today? Oh what a great loss to all humanity.

  5. grudznick 2013.12.05

    Mexican statehood for the tribes.

  6. interested party 2013.12.05

    larry rhoden should be beating a path to steve hickey's pew.

  7. Les 2013.12.05

    Reading comprehension much Phil? I'm on the Rev's case all the time due to him throwing fees on granny rather than raising the road tax to hit those who burn up the roads.
    I'll give credit where credit is due. Thanks Revy for a good bill. To all my conserv friends, I'm only soft on the death penalty once harmful intentions or actions have been contained. To my lib friends here if I have any, death through abortion still hurts many and neither side is a winner in this case until we work together to provide alternatives.

  8. Disgusted Dakotan 2013.12.05

    You have to love the politicians on this one! They are trying to abolish the death penalty, but cover their exposed flanks by blustering and saying they want to do so because it is too humane so they don't look weak moderates.

    Anyone that has observed the legislature knows that Rep Hoffman has earned Mercer's 180-360-540-720 nickname. I am betting he will be for it, against it, for being against it, and against it, at least once before the discussion is over with.

  9. Charlie Hoffman 2013.12.05

    Exactly Les. If a deterrent were observed by the painless lethal injection way we put criminals to death I might change my attitude; but there seems to be none out there as stated above. Many view the death penalty and abortion with the swift same platitude of murder. I'm going a step further that the innocence of one person wrongly convicted and put to death make every death penalty sentence a potential risk. I assume
    many will disagree yet I know many who do think similar to Rep. Hickey and myself. One would also assume that with the overhaul of our criminal code last year paving the way for a more efficient penal system this would fit into that plan very well. It is divisive certainly and cop killers should be treated differently---or should they? Murder is murder.

  10. Phil Schreck 2013.12.05

    "Les", I'm not sure why I'm deserving of the snarky comment. I was simply trying to see if I understood Hickey's thinking correctly. According to Cory's post, Pastor Hickey doesn't think that our current method of putting people to death is a deterrent. But, if we make it swifter, uglier, more painful and public, it would be.

  11. grudznick 2013.12.05

    Mr. Schreck, I think the blogging was saying that Mr. Hickey wants to repeal the Death Penalty totally and he has an "ally" in this Mr. Hoffman fellow who blogs here sometimes but it is Mr. Hoffman who says "yes repeal that drug sleep execution" so we can replace it with high public hangings.

  12. Les 2013.12.05

    I'll leave it up to Hickey to explain "Snarky" to you Phil.

  13. owen reitzel 2013.12.05

    what ever the reason I'm for Rev. Hickey on this. The death penalty is not a deterrent and as a man of God I don't see how he could be for any kind of death penalty.

  14. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.05

    The death penalty is not a deterrent, it is punishment. I seriously doubt that anyone that commits a capital offense thinks to himself, "If I kill my wife, I might get the death penalty". The majority of homicides are random acts.

    It doesn't say in the sentencing or the death warrant that someone violated the invisible phrase, "the death penalty is a deterrent, you killed, now you must die".

    It seems that conservatives would be in full support of repealing the death penalty because of the financial cost. It has been proven that the trial costs, appeals process, etc. far exceed the cost of incarceration.

    An attorney friend of mine that represented a man on death row told me that appeal process alone can cost as much as $7 Million.

    The state and counties would save a bundle if they just locked killers up and forgot about them.

    There is also a strong likelihood that most on death row would not live long enough to see their own execution.

  15. grudznick 2013.12.05

    Maybe the death penalty is pay back. And pay forward. I mean, why should those louts get to lounge in a bed watching TV and costing taxpayers loads of moola. I say do Hoffman's hang-em-high and do it quit, and be quit of the mess.

  16. Phil Schreck 2013.12.05

    Thanks grudznik and Owen, you make a great point!

  17. Q 2013.12.05

    It seems as though Mr Hoffman thinks that a spectacle will be a deterrent . If that is the case, perhaps we should use the Guillotine. We cover the convicted's head when we hang them. Why not let the blood flow freely? Let's follow this logic to its inevitable conclusion.

  18. Les 2013.12.05

    Obviously our punishment is not deterring crime as it continues to rise. A recent sentencing for robbery was 5-7 years. Not much for a robbery. I could go for that if there was a public caning before incarceration. This would also fit very well with SD's overhaul of our penal system.

  19. Lanny V Stricherz 2013.12.05

    And yet, no one on here as answered the age old question. Why do we kill people, who kill people, to show that killing people is wrong? Most people in South Dakota consider themselves as God fearing. But they are in favor of the death penalty in spite of the fact that God's 5th commandment was "Thou Shall not Kill." If the State kills in my name, am I breaking the 5th commandment, if I have not done all that I can to oppose the death penalty?

  20. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.05

    Great comment Lanny.

    If you have noticed, there is no * after Thou Shall Not Kill, that justifies or makes exceptions to the 5th Commandment.

  21. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.05

    "Parish-ites." Hilarious Cory!

    GWB and his gang did claim a deterent effect of executions.

    I am in total agreement with Charlie that there is a risk of executing the wrong person and it can never be undone.

    And I agree with Roger and Lanny in that executions violate a very clear commandment. Christians throughout history have worked very hard to torture Scripture enough to justify some extremely abhorrent behavior.

    Lastly, executions are more costly than lifetime incarceration. No Grudz, not with lounges, tv, recreation, etc.

    And Grudz, do you have concerns about an innocent person executed? Speeding up the legal process would certainly increase the odds of that happening. I know that I can't deal with the thought of being any part of killing an innocent person.

    I think of my friend who died in a hiking accident about 10 years ago and how terribly difficult and painful that was, not only for me but especially for his wife and 3 daughters, the girls on his softball team, etc. I don't know if I could ever escape the guilt and shame for deliberately killing an innocent person and causing that trauma to her/his family and loved ones. It should be everyone's nightmare.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.12.06

    Deb properly highlights Charlie's additional point that, regardless of whether more brutal punishments would scare more people away from committing crimes, the risk of executing an innocent person is a good reason not to use the death penalty.

    Hickey's point from his June sermon on deterrence is that for the death penalty to deter crime, we'd have to return to a brutality that is not appropriate for Christians or civilized people (I invite your Venn diagrams of the overlap between those two classes) in modern society.

  23. interested party 2013.12.06

    South Dakota would have tortured and put Nelson Mandela to death.

  24. Troy 2013.12.06

    A couple of comments:

    1) I endorse ending the death penalty. A government powerful enough to kill its citizens is too powerful.

    2) I think Hoffman might be deploying rhetoric (in its traditional sense). If we are going to have the death penalty as a deterrent, let's do it in the public square presenting killing in all its "glory" without making it as antiseptic as it is on video games. Q just extends the logic of "if we really want to deter, let's make it even more gruesome."

    3) I think Hickey is correct. There has always been an under-current of anti-death penalty among Republicans. They just didn't see the momentum to change the law that seems to be growing. So, they were just biding their time until opposition began to reach minimal critical mass and there was someone ready to lead the fight, as Rep. Hickey is doing.

  25. Rorschach 2013.12.06

    Troy's point 3 applies to same sex marriage as well. There is momentum growing, and minimal critical mass is near.

  26. interested party 2013.12.06

    South Dakota: Land of Infinite Discrepancy.

  27. interested party 2013.12.06

    What part of corporate fascism, mass incarceration and slow death by poverty escapes you people?

  28. interested party 2013.12.06

    thou shalt not kill*

    *except the poor, the mentally ill, NBP.

  29. Steve Hickey 2013.12.06

    Phil Schreck - your comment doesn't fit anything I've said about this issue and the others here noted that which explains the snark about your reading comprehension. I even say followers of Jesus should not advocate killing unborn human life.

    To the others - you can help by contacting people right now in the legislature and asking them to support this effort. Last night I was at a state medical association meeting and I pushed the matter before them and asked them to come out either way on the issue. It would help if people contacted the medical association and asked them to support the repeal. It's a violation of the Hippocratic Oath for a doctor to put someone to death.

    Rep Hoffman hits the nail on the head... we treat the death penalty like putting down a beloved pet.... we peacefully and painlessly put them to sleep and then stop their breathing and heart. It's the easy way out and in no way is that justice. They killed mercilessly and violently and they get the easy way out?1?1 I've been thinking about this Ariel Castro in Cleveland who held women captive as sex slaves for a decade. He did three months in jail and then killed himself. His victims got 10 years "imprisonment" and he only gets 3 months?1 He's free and his victims probably still aren't. Justice isn't death. There is an existence worse than death - some Bible writers even lamented how they wish they were never born. More merciful would be to put them out of their existence. Taking away a persons life but not their breath is a maximum sentence. And God can sort it out later as he says he will do. If we want our pound of flesh, decades in a 4x8 cell is mentally excruciating and a more desirable route for those who want "justice." There is nothing excruciating about how we put people to sleep right now. I think that was Rep Hoffman's point. I agree.

    I'll fight for this repeal but honestly would be a bit surprised if we were successful. Perhaps if unsuccessful I should drop a bill making the death penalty public - at high noon (not at 10pm under the cloak of darkness as we presently do them) and require SDPB to film it including web streaming and even require any public school and university student in our state old enough for a PG-13 movie to watch it. If we intend for this to be a deterrent, it needs to be public. If these are crimes against society, society needs to see the punishment they are presently supporting.

  30. Les 2013.12.06

    On point number 3 Troy, I can believe the go along to get along. I see it very often on very important decisions, but life? And we are the party of "prolife"? Makes me so proud my eyes water.
    Gitter done Revy!

  31. interested party 2013.12.06

    Exactly, Steve: South Dakota IS the death penalty.

  32. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.06


    On your point 3.

    I recall the standing ovation and cheering for the death penalty at the National Republican convention that nominated Romney for President

  33. Phil Schreck 2013.12.06

    Thanks for setting me straight on this Steve. I hope you are successful!

  34. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.12.06

    Lanny, when the state kills, in a democracy, we kill. You and I will kill a man during that second/third week of January.

    While all three of Troy's points are interesting, the first may intrigue me most. It reflects an alignment of conservative thinking with what might be too easily categorized a liberal cause. That's why this is such an interesting political story. It breaks the predictable ideological lines.

  35. ModeratesareascommonasunicornsinSD 2013.12.08

    Why not public dismembering? Oooooh, how aobut drawing and quartering! Or maybe we can disembowel them in front of their loved ones!

    If you are willing to toss away your humanity on the premise of deterrance, just go ahead and do it. Just remember that as an elected representative, your bloodlust is imputed on your constituency. Some of us aren't going to like it.

  36. Les 2013.12.08

    The fact that a long needed change can be jeopardized by the moderate jackass and similar statements above because the reasons cited for change don't fit his/her agenda, proves to me you really don't give a good GD.

  37. grudznick 2013.12.08

    Mexican statehood for the tribes!!!!

  38. Disgusted Dakotan 2013.12.08

    Moderate Republicans pushing a liberal agenda? Shocking!

  39. Les 2013.12.08

    My statement had nothing to do with moderate Republicans DD, everything to do with ModeratesareascommonasunicornsinSD and the rest of the liberals who would rather feel the thrill of a mental victory in their own mind than the very real victory against a bad law.

  40. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.08


    Just what makes you think Tribes want Mexican statehood?

    That is a ludicrous idea and not even in the realm of possibility or reality. Quit saying it!

  41. Jerry 2013.12.09

    He says it because he is spooked Roger. Instead of an outreach program to encourage a recognition of business harmony and a sense of equality, these new republicans insist on the ways of Jim Crow. They fear success, as they see an an erosion of competition. Always remember that capitalism only works when there is a looser. Look around and you can see how it is presently working, not to pretty is it. By paying for political favors instead of looking at the obvious, the new republicans can only continue to corrupt. If existing workers were to be paid their worth and future workers recruited within our state for the higher wages they deserve, they may start to behave like successful workers elsewhere, in other words, independent thinkers and not new republicans. The field must be leveled or it will eat itself faster than what it is consuming presently. Listen to them Roger, you can sense the fear of equality.

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