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Capital Punishment in South Dakota  

This guide highlights South Dakota law on capital punishment and the resources available in the USD Law Library.
Last Updated: Sep 1, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Execution of the Intellectually Disabled

In a 2002 decision, the Supreme Court barred the execution of the intellectually disabled in Atkins v. Virginia. The Court determined that considering standards of modern decency, the execution of those with intellectual diabilities was a violation of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. While those with such disabilites are not immune from criminal punishment, their personal culpability is diminshed. However, the Court left it up to the states to define criteria for determining a legal definition of intellectual disability.

In response, Texas created the "Lennie standard," based on the fictional character Lennie from John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men." In Steinbeck's novel, Lennie is a "dim" and lumbering farmhand. The standard was created because the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals determined in Ex Parte Brisneo that no one would reasonably want to execute Lennie. Therefore, anyone who resembled Lennie would be exempt from execution in capital murder cases. The court created a list of seven factors as part of the standard. 

The Supreme Court will be assessing the Texas standard in Moore v. United States in Fall 2016. 

The New York Times: Supreme Court to Consider Legal Standard Drawn From ‘Of Mice and Men’ 

National Public Radio: Supreme Court Will Consider Legality Of The 'Lennie Standard'


State-by-State View of Capital Punishment Law

Nation-wide information on captital punishment is detailed on these sites.  The first link provides state by state information such as state statutes on the death penalty, murder rates by state, list of states with the death penalty, list of state that have abolished it and the year abolished, and the clemency process by state. The second link provides facts, statistics, and analysis on the death penalty nationwide. The third link is a 50 State Statutory Survey available through Westlaw on the collected capital punishment statutes of each state. The last link provides government collected statistics on the death penalty. 


Status of Executions in Oklahoma Related to Problems With Lethal Injection Drug Delivery

Oklahoma has been at the center of the death penalty debate after the execution of Clayton Lockett went awry on April 28, 2014.  Lockett died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after the begining of the drug administration.  News articles discussing the execution are available below:

Oklahoma Inmate Dies of Heart Attack After Botched Execution; Second Scheduled Execution Postponed, by Victor Li, ABA Journal, April 29, 2014

Oklahoma Stops Execution After Botching Drug Delivery; Inmate Dies, by Greg Botelho and Dana Ford, CNN, April 30, 2014

Botched Oklahoma Execution Reignites Death Penalty Debate, by Lindsey Bever, Washington Post, April 30, 2014

Botched Execution Could Slam Brakes on Death Penalty, by Gregg Zoroya and Michael Winter, USA Today, April 30, 2014

In early 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court became involved in the Oklahoma controversy, placing a stay on future executions in Oklahoma until the court hears arguments as to whether or not Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol violates the U.S. Constitution.  News articles discussing the stay are available below:

Supreme Court Tells Oklahoma To Put Off Executions, Citing Drug Dispute, by Bill Chappell, NPR, January 28, 2015

Supreme Court Halts Oklahoma Executions Before Inmates’ Case Is Heard, by Jess Bravin, Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2015

Justices Block Three Oklahoma Executions Over Drug Used, by Richard Wolf, USA Today, January 28, 2015

For those interested in following the Supreme Court case, it is Glossip v. Gross, No. 14-7955.  A case summary, updates, and court documents are available here from SCOTUSblog. 


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