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Death Penalty Restrictions Get Little Support at Aberdeen Crackerbarrel

Last updated on 2015.02.10

Four bills aimed at reducing or eliminating the use of the death penalty in South Dakota await our Legislature's attention:

  1. Senate Bill 121 would repeal the death penalty in all future cases.
  2. SB 122 would continge issuance of a death sentence on "a finding that the defendant is too dangerous to be incarcerated and is an ongoing danger to the public and the prison community."
  3. House Bill 1158 would require that evidence that the victim or victim's family opposed the death penalty be presented at the presentence hearing in any capital case.
  4. HB 1159 would create a database of citizens who would declare, "Should I die as a result of a violent crime, it is my wish that no person found guilty of homicide for my killing be subject to a death sentence." Citizens would register themselves in this database on their driver's license applications.

If you're looking for support for those bills, don't look to the six legislators who appeared at Aberdeen's crackerbarrel on Saturday. None committed to support any of those bills. The lone Democrat on the panel, District 1 Senator Jason Frerichs of Wilmot, hinted that he might support SB 122, the added sentencing guideline, since one of the sponsors, rookie Senator Arthur Rusch (R-17/Vermillion), sentenced Donald Moeller to death in 1997, but Sen. Frerichs only said he hopes SB 122 comes to the floor for debate. His comments make clear that even he believes we should kill some criminals.

Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) said he can't find any Biblical reason not to kill criminals. His mom, Rep. Lana Greenfield (R-2/Doland) vaguely referenced Barabbas but said it's o.k. to kill criminals who brag about enjoying prison (no, really, that's the story she told!). Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) said he voted against last year's death penalty repeal but doesn't know how he'll vote this year. His dad, Rep. Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen), misrepresented SB 122 as a ban on the death penalty, then invoked the Charlie Hebdo killings and the Chester Poage murder (for the record, Al, even I, who was outraged at the jihadis who killed the French cartoonists, would rather those killers had been put in prison, not killed) to justify his position "not that I support the death penalty, but I support the opportunity for the death penalty." Preferring clarity and brevity, Rep. Dan Kaiser (R-3/Aberdeen) said he'll vote against these bills.

Here are the full remarks. The speakers, in order, are Sen. Greenfield, Sen. Frerichs, Sen. Novstrup, Rep. Novstrup, Rep. Greenfield, and Rep. Kaiser.

Notice that three of the speakers—the Greenfields and the younger Novstrup—wrung their hands over the difficult, emotional nature of votes on the death penalty. Get a grip, Brock, Lana, and David. This is government, not Dr. Phil. We understand you face all sorts of hard decisions. That's what we pay you the big bucks to do.

Rep. Dan Kaiser is wrong, but I at least respect him for sparing us the emotional showing-off and simply stating his policy position. Similarly, Senator Frerichs is hedging, but he at least focused on a direct discussion of the policy, not his personal emotions.


  1. mike from iowa 2015.02.08

    The death penalty should only apply to dumbass dubya,dick cheney,nixon,ford,raygun,senior dumbass dubya,henry kissinger and a whole host of neocons too numerous to mention. List is subject to later inclusions when more wingnuts piss me off. Otherwise I'm against it.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.08

    Thou Shall Not Kill.

    Notice that there is not an asterisk exempting anyone or any situation.

  3. bearcreekbat 2015.02.08

    I obviously do not share any religious instructions on the topic, yet I still agree with Roger for the most part. I can imagine, however, killing to protect the life of someone under attack by a killer.

    But the cold blooded jailing, psychologically torturing and finally marching someone in cuffs and chains to his or her death inflicted by armed state officials who are in absolutely no danger or threat whatsoever seems awfully ISIS like to me. I wonder if we posted videos on news networks of the full extent of our executions, would this affect opinion? Would we then see our state officials as the same cowardly killers of someone defenseless as we see ISIS killers?

  4. 96Tears 2015.02.08

    The largest collection of intensely dumb humans is found in the State Senate and House of Representatives in Pierre. They should knock down the State Capitol Building and build a soundproof, locker concrete bunker in its place. On opening day, lock the doors and let nobody out until sine die. Then escort the fools home and don't allow them to make eye contact or communicate until 30 days have passed.

  5. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.08

    Excellent point on ISIS bear, the only thing different between our executions and ISIS is that they have the "courage" to post theirs.

  6. mike from iowa 2015.02.08

    The latest Progressive Insurance commercial has everyone from Mongols to the Queen of England and the good folks of Salem,Mass wanting to kill poor old Flo the insurance lady. Pretty soon commercials will be as violent as real life.

  7. o 2015.02.08

    Am to take it then that our "Pro-life" legislators believe that the "right to life" has an expiration date?

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.08

    O, in the abortion crusaders' world, an embryo is a tool with which to punish women for having sex. A prisoner is a tool for satisfying their bloodlust.

  9. Aaron 2015.02.09

    An embryo is something we all used to be

  10. Craig 2015.02.09

    Roger: "Excellent point on ISIS bear, the only thing different between our executions and ISIS is that they have the "courage" to post theirs."

    I wouldn't go quite that far Roger. Last I checked we weren't executing people who haven't went to trial nor do we execute innocent journalists or innocent civilians who have committed no crime.

    Mind you I don't support capital punishment at all and I think we should do away with it, but there is a distinction between the relatively painless process of lethal injection (unless you reside in Oklahoma) vs. burning someone alive as they are trapped in a cage.

    Let's not suggest anything about ISIS is courageous. It isn't.

  11. Craig 2015.02.09

    Sibby: "There is a difference between the death penalty and an abortion"

    I agree. One is the taking of a human life. The other is an abortion.

    You can argue your personal belief that an embryo or zygote is morally equivalent to a human life, but science has yet to make that distinction. At what point a clumb of cells equates to a distinct living being is probably an argument that will rage on long after all of us have been recycled into dirt, so rather than beat that dead horse let's focus upon what we can agree upon.... capital punishment ends the life of a human being.

    I'm assuming that point is not in dispute.

  12. Bill Fleming 2015.02.09

    Reading Sibby's comment, I'm not sure there is really any difference, in terms of the point he's trying to make to Cory. Both anti-abortion people and anti-capital punishment people are taking moral positions "above the law." Because both abortion and capital punishment are currently legal.

    So if "above the law" is his point, let him answer his own question.

    Why do you think you should be above the law, Sibby?

  13. leslie 2015.02.09

    flemming, u r a smooth operator!;)

  14. leslie 2015.02.09

    brock can't be serious that there is no reason not to kill criminals?

  15. Bill Fleming 2015.02.09

    leslie, I've had two very good teachers here on Cory's blog. Suffice it to say, neither one of them is Steve Sibson. :-)

  16. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.09

    Another good thread shot to hell, "Sibby by Proxy" is back.

    He must not be getting much traffic on his own blog so he comes here to corrupt Madville Times.

  17. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.09

    Are you suggesting that even with due process, innocent people have not been put to death in this country.

    Or is the death penalty a form of justifiable violence and murder?

  18. Bill Fleming 2015.02.09

    Craig, not to put too fine a point on it, because we are all sickened and bewildered by their actions, but I do think there is a certain amount of courage involved with some of the horrific acts the terrorists do, especially when they blow themselves up.

    I sometimes wonder, if they would just do that, enmasse, like the Buddhist monks used to do to protest the war, whether it would make any difference to whatever cause they think they have by shocking the world's conscience with their self-sacrifice.

    It is indeed the fact that they involve others in their self-destruction and outright nihilistic behavior that makes us think of them as "cowards" in the final analysis.

    But I'm guessing they don't see themselves as cowards, nor do those who have bought into their propaganda. I'm guessing they think of themselves as being courageous (to be sure, as perverted as courage can get, I submit) but to them, courageous nonetheless.

  19. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.09

    Brother Bill,
    Your comment is precisely why I put courage in parenthesis.

  20. Bill Fleming 2015.02.09

    Got it, Roger.

    Sun Tzu: "It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."

  21. Craig 2015.02.09

    Roger: "Are you suggesting that even with due process, innocent people have not been put to death in this country."

    Not at all - in fact I made that exact argument against it in the prior discussion on this topic. I just don't think you can compare our current system of capital punishment to what ISIS does. Both are forms of injustice I'll grant you that, and I have no doubt that members of ISIS don't see themselves as terrorists, but I don't base my views on what they think they are. I also don't support capital punishment any more than I support terrorism, but as an objective third party who hates both even I can see there is a vast difference between those two for a number of reasons.

    They share the end result... ending the life of a human being. Yet just as a set of roller skates and a Ferrari are both methods of transport, they can't both be considered as equals. I just can't wrap my head around the idea that beheading a third party journalist without a trial just for the sake of making a statement is the same as putting someone to death for a crime they were convicted of.

  22. Owen 2015.02.09

    the death penalty is legal and so is abortion

  23. mike from iowa 2015.02.09

    Craig,might I suggest that ISIS has already determined an infidel has had a trial and was found unworthy without any semblance of a court,based on their interpretation of their koran?

    Lord knows there are enough christian? prosecutors and judges who feel any trial,whether or not there was any prosecutorial misconduct,is all a defendant is afforded and then when they decide to limit appeals to one in a thirty day period,it is pretty obvious they have a minimalist view of what justice should look like. But,hey,if they can railroad folks AND save money,what is there their constituents wouldn't like?

  24. Bill Fleming 2015.02.09

    Craig, I agree with you in one sense, that on the surface they look completely different, but in another sense, there still may be similar intent, at least in the eyes of some.

    The twisted mind of ISIS sees the killings as a form of intimidation. The price one pays for not being on their side in there perverted mix of religion, politics and social order. And they are enacting the harshest possible discipline. Monstrous, actually.

    One could argue that when capital punishment is presented as a crime deterrent, a similar thing is going on, albeit in a far more seemingly sane context.

    It's been made as anapestic and clinical as possible, and kept out of the public eye for the most part, although that's not always been the case. Not that long ago we had public hangings and people showed up, had picnics, and witnessed the public shaming.

    Intimidation is intimidation, and if the argument is "conform or be killed" the amount of conformity required is just a matter of degree.

    Troy Jones says it best, perhaps:

    "A government that has the power to kill its citizens is too powerful."

  25. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.09

    Be it a Ferrari or a pair of roller skates, they are both modes of transportation that will get you where you are going.
    Just as beheading innocence by terrorists or putting someone to death in a clinical setting with needles, the result is the same, they both get you there.
    In our country we no longer have public hangings, but we still have witnesses to executions.
    Often times you will have pro and con death penalty advocates protesting, some weeping for a victim of the noose, and the others cheering and chanting, "an eye for eye, a tooth for a tooth".

  26. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.09

    I don't understand #2, especially this part: "too dangerous to be incarcerated"

    How can any prisoner be "too dangerous"? That sounds like the corrections system is inadequate to keep the prisoner inside. Doesn't make sense to me.

    GWB and Darth Cheney greatly eroded the moral standing of the US. Torturing and raping and humiliating prisoners. Getting rid of the death penalty would be a good step in the right direction.

  27. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.09

    There is no moral, religious or economic justification for state mandated killings. It's revenge and it doesn't heal the victim's loved ones or bring the dead back to life.

  28. Bill Fleming 2015.02.10

    Deb, 2, 3, and 4 can all be summed up in 3 words: Passing the buck. ;-)

  29. Bill Fleming 2015.02.10

    One of the tenets of the implicit social contract is that we abdicate the authority to commit acts of violence to the state exclusively in exchange for the protection and safety the state promises to deliver in return. The question then becomes, 'to whom do we belong, ourselves or the state?'

    I'd be interested to hear the ad hoc Madvillian justice committee's discussion and conclusion on that question.

  30. Bill Fleming 2015.02.10

    My comment to Deb about 'passing the buck' is basically an observation that these law just kick the state's exclusive authority to commit violence back to the people. An admission that the state is not the 'owner' of of it's citizens, but that it's not quite sure who really is. And in any case, it's not really competent to do the job we've agreed it should do under the social contract.

    Kind of like a punt in football, or maybe a 'Hail Mary' pass.

  31. mike from iowa 2015.02.10

    "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." --Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

    From dumbass dubya on whether the death penalty results in death.(snark)

  32. Bill Fleming 2015.02.10

    So, to me, of the four bills, only #1, while inadequate, at least tries to acknowledge to proper relationship of the government to the people under the social contract by recognizing that the government does not in fact own the people it serves, but rather has been formed by the people and given awesome power to protect and serve them. The remaining step would be to commute all existing death sentences into life sentences, thereby acknowledging that those lives are not state property, and are instead lives to be protected, not destroyed.

  33. larry kurtz 2015.02.10

    Btw, next person who insults or attacks Hickey becomes my enemy: k?

  34. Bill Fleming 2015.02.10

    Denature rocks. What do you mean you 'waved him off?' Are you talking about the DWC thread on evolution? He completely reversed that guy's argument. I thought it was sublime. Jawdropping.

    That's how Denature always is. Never seen him lose a biological argument. Comes from knowing what the hell he's talking about.

    Hickey could use some if that. If that makes me your enemy, Larry, so be it. I'm not going to get baited into making you mine.

  35. larry kurtz 2015.02.10

    Bill, you can follow him on twitter. @denaturesd

  36. Bill Fleming 2015.02.10

    Yup, I see that. Cool. Thanks Larry.

  37. Lynn 2015.02.10

    "Btw, next person who insults or attacks Hickey becomes my enemy: k?"

    Larry that is a pretty broad threat. Would that include me also though I doubt I would be alone.

  38. larry kurtz 2015.02.10

    Sibby has a new post up: he should rename his blog 'I Hate Cory' or something. PP loves having it in DWC's sidebar.

  39. Craig 2015.02.10

    Mike: "Craig,might I suggest that ISIS has already determined an infidel has had a trial and was found unworthy without any semblance of a court,based on their interpretation of their koran?"

    I can't really say, but does their Koran also suggest burning someone alive somehow serves their God? Does the Koran indicate killings should be taped and timed to correspond to specific events in order to enrage those they disagree with? I could argue the fact they need to mask their faces indicates they know what they are doing is wrong and even they don't want to be known as associating with it.

    I suppose if a person twists words long enough they can make them say what they wish - we have seen where some use scripture in the Bible to justify killing, or racism, or discrimination, or greed... so it doesn't come as any surprise that the same can be done with the Koran.

    I am perplexed however at the idea that we, a nation which by all accounts is governed by the Christian majority, still continues to have the death penalty. This seems to go against every concept of the Bible and Christianity... yet THIS is the one issue where these people decide that they need to separate their religion from government?


  40. larry kurtz 2015.02.10

    Steve Hickey is the only man in the legislature will any balls whatsoever, Lynn: let's give him some breathing room.

  41. Bill Fleming 2015.02.10

    Poor choice of metaphor when talking to Lynn perhaps. I doubt she cares whether or not Hickey's balls have breathing room. LOL

  42. mike from iowa 2015.02.10

    The thing is,Craig,they believe what they are doing is right. I have no idea what their Koran tells them to do and I agree it is hypocritical.

  43. Craig 2015.02.10

    I sometimes wonder Mike. We are often told they are misinterpreting the Koran or that they may believe they are freedom fighters rather than terrorists, but I have to wonder if deep down inside those in charge actually know it is all a scam. Perhaps they just want the power. They live on knowing others fear them, they want the rewards of being able to take whatever they want whenever they want it. It makes them feel powerful - because in a part of the world where few have anything these terrorist leaders can take the few things people still have left. They can steal the virginity of their young girls, the childhoods of the young boys, the emotions from those they prey upon, whatever wealth they can find, and the attention of the world.

    They can manipulate and abuse and gain followers not from education or a common cause, but because of ignorance and fear and a lack of options. To some degree they share many traits with inner-city gangs, because if there were better options it would be harder to recruit new members.

    I have no doubt there are ideologues and those who believe they are fighting for a noble cause, but I dare say those who lead the effort know better if for no other reason than they are more well informed as to what is actually occurring and they are in control of the information. They engage in their behavior more out of selfishness and a preverted desire to be viewed as powerful than any desire to be loyal to their god or anyone other than themselves.

    I dare say education is a far greater tool to fight terrorism than bombs or bullets could ever be.

  44. Dicta 2015.02.10

    I'm one of those right wing loons that are obliquely referenced here from time to time, and I abhor the death penalty. There is no place for it, and I hope it is struck down in our state sooner rather than later. Also anti-abortion, so feel free to call me an imbecile after my brief pat on the back.

  45. bearcreekbat 2015.02.10

    In our discussion comparing ISIS killings to our death penalty the argument has been that at least we provide due process do not torture people. Any such behavior by our Christian ancestors was back in medieval times during the inquisition, but not in the good old USA.

    In Tuesday Salon, there is an article about our 20th century people in a Texas mob torturing and burning alive an 18 year old black man, accused by a grand jury of murder, but never tried or convicted. Unfortunately this reminded me of other lynchings in the South during the 20th century. How soon we forget.

  46. bearcreekbat 2015.02.10

    The above linked article points out: "Between 1882 and 1968 — 1968! — there were 4,743 recorded lynchings in the US. About a quarter of them were white people, many of whom had been killed for sympathizing with black folks."

    The author's "father, who was born in 1904 near Paris, Texas, kept in a drawer that newspaper photograph from back when he was a boy of thousands of people gathered as if at a picnic to feast on the torture and hanging of a black man in the center of town. . . .

    ". . . They were insiders. Home grown. Godly. Our neighbors, friends, and kin. People like us."

  47. Bill Fleming 2015.02.10

    Dicta, I get it, and I truly do appreciate the consistency. A great many "pro-choicers" are also anti-abortion (pro-life), just as a great many pro-life (anti-abortion) people are also in fact pro-choice. The two positions are not mutually exclusive. Further, if one allows for any exceptions whatsoever on either side, one's position is not absolute. Same goes for the death penalty, I suppose. I've just never heard what I consider to be a completely compelling, dispositive argument for it. War? Yes. Self-defense? Yes. Capital punishment? No. But I'm all ears.

  48. Dicta 2015.02.10

    The argument I've most frequently heard is that it is about innocent life, i.e. that the baby/fetus/whatever you want to call it is innocent and the death penalty victim/criminal/evil incarnate/whatever you want to call it is not. I don't necessarily hesitate about judging people, hell, we all do it all the time. I take offense at judging people in a way where we get to determine who has a right to live and who doesn't, especially when people screw shit up so often. No thanks. I don't want that on my conscience.

  49. mike from iowa 2015.02.10

    bcb-in an article from another site yesterday,it said the lynchee had a trial and the jury deliberated four minutes before convicting him whereupon he was grabbed by citizens,beaten,stabbed,castyrated, had fingers cut off,chained to a tree and repeatedly lowered into a fire to make his death last longer. He repeatedly tried to climb away from the flames but couldn't without fingers. Thaey even showed a single photo of his charred body afterwards still chained to the tree. Kids were taking fingers for souvenirs.Don't look if you are squeamish.

  50. mike from iowa 2015.02.10

    Here is that paragon of christian values,Honeyguggler Huckabee and his take on Obama's Prayer Breakfast speech-

    Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said Monday that Barack Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast speech proved that Muslims are only religious group that has the President’s “undying” support.

    “Everything he does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel,” he said on “Fox and Friends.” “The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the radical Muslim community or the more moderate Muslim community.”

  51. bearcreekbat 2015.02.10

    mfi - the "trial" referenced by the article was a grand jury proceeding rather than a regular "petit jury" where a defendant is permitted to put on evidence, cross exam adverse witness, and presumed innocent until the government proved the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In a secret grand jury proceeding the rules of evidence don't apply, the defendant has not right to participate, there is no judge only a prosecutor, and the standard of proof is mere "probable cause" to believe the defendant committed a crime. Here is what the article I posted said:

    "The grand jury took just four minutes to return a guilty verdict, but there was no appeal, no review, no prison time. Instead, a courtroom mob dragged him outside, pinned him to the ground, and cut off his testicles. A bonfire was quickly built and lit. For two hours, Jesse Washington — alive — was raised and lowered over the flames. Again and again and again. City officials and police stood by, approvingly. According to some estimates, the crowd grew to as many as 15,000. There were taunts, cheers and laughter. Reporters described hearing “shouts of delight.”"

  52. mike from iowa 2015.02.10

    I stand corrected,Sir and thanks. He still got lynched.

  53. mike from iowa 2015.02.10

    I stand un-corrected. There was a grand jury on the 9th and then a trial on the 15th after which he was lynched,according to Wiki. Doesn't matter. He still got lynched.

  54. bearcreekbat 2015.02.10

    mfi - perhaps the article I cited used the term "grand jury" in error? But you are right, he was not only lynched, he was tortured in a manner, and in front of a huge crowd of cheering Texans and law enforcement officials, that makes the recent ISIS atrocities pale in comparison.

  55. Dicta 2015.02.10

    Are we getting to that morbid part of the day where we attempt to rank atrocities?

  56. bearcreekbat 2015.02.10

    That is not my intent Dicta. Rather, I think we need to look in the mirror of our history and stop thinking were are so sacrosanct in using the state to kill people. This is a practice that we should be ashamed of and that we should stop.

  57. mike from iowa 2015.02.10

    Can we agree that our side has committed atrocities in war and peace?

  58. Dicta 2015.02.10

    You'd have to have a complete lack of knowledge about history to disagree.

  59. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.10

    Craig wondered if "those in charge actually know it is all a scam."

    I'd bet on it. I wish I could remember the commentary I read recently that described fake Christian pastors as scammers just like B Madoff, except rather than use fake financial products, the fake clergy use fear and loathing plus the terror of eternal suffering to extort millions of dollars from their victims. The main difference appears to be that fake preachers victimize the weakest and most vulnerable while the ponzi-scheme types would rather pursue those with greater resources.

    Are there Christian leaders who are despicable? I've got to say yes. However, cruel as it may be to psychologically and financially abuse vulnerable elderly people, these fake pastors aren't killing their victims' bodies like the fake imams, just crushing their spirits.

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