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HB 1077: Mostly Polite, But Opens Parole for Intellectually Disabled Murderers

The first death penalty bill hit the hopper yesterday. House Bill 1077, brought to us by Rep. Dan Ahlers (D-25/Dell Rapids) mostly modifies the language concerning South Dakota’s ban on executing “mentally retarded” killers. Forms of the word retard are now verboten in polite society, so HB 1077 replaces those words throughout our capital punishment statutes with variations of intellectually disabled.

HB 1077 does slip in one substantive change. Scroll through the revisions of Section 3, and at the bottom we see this change:

Unless the order is reversed on appeal, a separate sentencing proceeding under this section may not be conducted if the defendant is thereafter convicted of murder in the first degree. If a separate sentencing proceeding is not conducted, the court, upon conviction of a defendant for the crime of murder in the first degree, shall sentence the defendant to life imprisonment without parole [House Bill 1077, ending of Section 3, submitted 2018.01.16]. 

Striking “without parole” means that intellectually disabled defendants convicted of first-degree murder may qualify for parole.


  1. Jack Arrow 2018-01-17

    There is no life sentence with parole eligibility in SD. Life means life. HB1077 does nothing to change that. Striking without parole is not a substantive change, it merely deletes a redundancy. Those inmates with a life sentence who have an intellectual disability will still not be eligible for parole. See SDCL 24-15-4 (lifers not eligible for parole by Board) 24-15A-32 (no parole date set).

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-17

    Thanks for those citations, Jack. So HB 1077 doesn’t do anything substantive? Dang.

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