At an August 2 budget work session, Commissioners Ron Buskerud and Mark DiSanto “joked” and laughed about wishing we could just take criminals out back of the courthouse after their trials and shoot them. Forward to 59:10 in the official Pennington County video:
Commissioner Buskerud has had the decency to apologize for his thoughtless and inappropriate remarks; Commissioner DiSanto, husband of Rep. Lynne DiSanto, has not offered any public apology.
But the key policy point amidst this public honyockerism is that Buskerud and DiSanto were responding to concerns about the cost of capital punishment cases:
In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Buskerud said the statement was made out of frustration, given the exorbitant cost of death penalty cases that Pennington County residents now have to shoulder.
“It’s costing the taxpayers another two to three million dollars,” he said. “The state’s attorney needs more money, the public defender needs more money, the courts need more money. That’s the context in which it was said” [Tiffany Tan, “Buskerud Regrets ‘Stupid’ Comment that People Facing Death Penalty Should Be Shot,” Rapid City Journal, 2017.08.17].
The ACLU has your relief, Commissioner Buskerud. The solution to such exorbitant costs is not to start shooting people without full due process. It’s to get rid of the death penalty:
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota said that if county commissioners believed the death penalty is “too much of a financial burden,” they could advocate for its elimination.
“I would hope that in the future, elected officials would engage in thoughtful, nuanced analysis when discussing the execution of a human being, which is the most serious and irreversible exercise of governmental power that exists,” said Libby Skarin, policy director of the South Dakota ACLU [Tan, 2017.08.17].
If you’re really concerned about your county budget, shooting your mouth off won’t solve your problems. Neither will shooting people.