South Dakota is getting ready for two executions in the coming weeks. Barring last-minute legal twists involving inmates Eric Robert and Donald Moeller, both of whom have said they’re ready to die, South Dakota will carry out the final steps in its death penalty process for the first time since 2007 when Elijah Page was executed for his role in the torture and killing of a 19-year-old man seven years prior. He, too, asked to die. That execution was the first in the state in 60 years.
But many people wonder if events like South Dakota will experience in the next few weeks will have an impact other than on those involved. Will anything really change? Will crimes like these become obsolete? Will the deaths of these two deter others from committing similar crimes? In the end we may not get whatever answers we are seeking but the questions raised are worth thinking about. Like everything else in the death penalty, it’s all part of the process.
"South Dakota death row inmate Eric Robert to be executed by lethal injection Monday night," is the AP report, via the Republic.
South Dakota's first execution in five years, and only the second in more than half a century, is scheduled for Monday night.
Eric Robert, 50, pleaded guilty in the April 12, 2011, slaying of a prison guard during a failed escape attempt and asked to be put to death, saying he would kill again. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 10 p.m. at the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.
South Dakota's last execution took place in 2007, and that was the first in the state for 60 years. Only five inmates are currently on death row, including Robert and Donald Moeller, 60, who is expected to be executed later this month after he asked for appeals on his behalf to be dropped.
"You have few people on death row, few executions, and then you have this coincidence of cases coming all at once," Richard Dieter, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, said. "When people waive appeals, their cases start to move more quickly."
John Hult writes a lengthy examination of the process, "South Dakota revisits executions this week,"
Two men will be put to death in South Dakota this month.
That’s a lot, considering only two men have been executed in the state since 1947.
Eric Robert, 50, will be put to death Monday. And by the end of the month, twice-convicted murderer and rapist Donald Moeller will die.
As with the 2007 execution of Elijah Page, supporters and opponents of capital punishment probably will gather outside the walls of the South Dakota State Penitentiary for prayer vigils and protests.
But this time, it will be with a sense of urgency, as two of the five inmates on South Dakota’s death row face their fate in the next few weeks. It’s unusual locally and nationally to execute two prisoners so close together, and South Dakota faces its own challenges.
Some states have more frequent executions, such as Texas, where there will sometimes be two executions a week. Rev. Carroll Pickett was a chaplain on death row in that state for 15 years and ministered to 95 inmates before their deaths.
The coming weeks, he warned, will be trying not only for the families of the victims and the condemned, but on those who will oversee Moeller and Robert during their final hours, those who listen to their prayers and those who insert the needles.
“You don’t forget anyone,” Pickett said. “You can’t forget those. It affected every one of us.”
The specific protocols used to execute an inmate have changed since Page was put to death by lethal injection on July 11, 2007, but much remains the same.
"Differing Viewpoints On Death Penalty," is by David Brown for KELO-TV.
Robert is one of five South Dakotans currently on death row and that prompted two state bishops to issue a statement condemning the death penalty last week. But the controversial topic is getting some divergent views from those of the Catholic faith.
Sunday's Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls celebrated the beginning of the year of faith. But it also touched on something that not everyone in the faith agrees on.
"We can protect society and punish criminals appropriately without the death penalty," Bishop Paul Swain of the Diocese of Sioux Falls said.
"I personally think it's an individual issue," Sioux Falls resident Mike Grossman said. "Everybody looks at things differently."
Swain, along with Rapid City Bishop Robert Gruss issued a statement a couple of days ago condemning the death penalty, arguing it lacks moral authority.
Earlier coverage from South Dakota begins at the link.