Brown County Courthouse Not Shovel-Ready; Pennington County Flush with Cash to Kill

Today’s juxtaposition of South Dakota “pro-life” attitudes:

In Brown County, following an incident in which a man brought a garden shovel into the courthouse and asked to speak with Judge Mark Anderson, Judge Tony Portra says we could use a deputy in each courtroom or a security checkpoint on the way. The Brown County Commission is struggling to find the money and manpower to address Judge Portra’s concerns:

…the budget issues in Brown County go beyond what a grant could fix. In addition to equipment, there are staffing concerns, Schmitt said.

“They bandied around $300,000 to $400,000 pretty quick between the additional staff, the equipment, the remodeling to make a secure checkpoint,” [chief deputy Tom Schmitt] said. “I’m really not quite sure which way they’re going to go.”

…”We just really don’t have the staff to have security checks and deputies at every hearing,” he said.

Schmitt has been talking to some retired law officers to see if someone would be interested, Kippley said, adding the commission takes the request seriously. It just comes down to funding.

“We’ll continue to look at it, we’re going to do what we can do financially,” she said [Katherine Grandstrand, “Courtroom Security a Concern in Brown County,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.10.22].

Meanwhile, in Pennington County, after some inaptly worded frustration about the cost in August, commissioners have smoothly appropriated over a million dollars in budget increases to cover costs associated with upcoming capital cases:

On Sept. 26, Pennington County Commissioners granted the courthouse’s and public defenders’ request for half-a-million-dollar increases to their 2018 budgets. A significant portion of the amounts will go toward defending two men who are facing the death penalty on first-degree murder charges.

Jonathon Klinetobe of Sturgis and Richard Hirth of Rapid City are charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the disappearance and death of 22-year-old Jessica Rehfeld in 2015.

Klinetobe, 28, is represented by three appointed lawyers, two from the county public defender’s office and one private attorney. Hirth, 36, has two court-appointed private lawyers.

…Death penalty cases are “exceedingly expensive,” said Eric Whitcher, director of the county public defender’s office. He said taxpayers can “reasonably expect” to shoulder $500,000 to $1 million for the prosecution and defense of such a case [Tiffany Tan, “Big Boost in Funding for Death Penalty Cases,” Rapid City Journal, 2017.10.15].

Brown County has judges we’d like to keep alive, but we hem and haw about budgets and making do with retirees working as temp-a-cops.

Pennington County has defendants we’d like to kill, and boom!, we have a million bucks right here, right now, to hire top staff to move that process along.

Both counties would seem to have cheaper options available. Brown County could simply implement sensible shovel control—i.e., no shovels in the courthouse. Pennington County could drop the death penalty and simply seek life in prison for Klinetobe and Hirth.

There you go—two fiscally conservative pro-life proposals from a liberal Democrat.