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February 06, 2012 06:02 PM

The Five Death Row Residents

Sioux Falls, SD


Just four months ago, only three people lived on South Dakota's death row; now, there are five.
Rodney Berget is the newest addition to South Dakota's death row.

Berget and Eric Robert are sentenced to die for killing Corrections Officer Ron Johnson during a failed escape attempt from the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls last year. Robert was sentenced to death in October.

Also on death row is Briley Piper. Piper played part in the brutal torture and killing of Chester Allan Poage 12 years ago in a rural area of the Black Hills. The killing was part of a plan to rob Poage's mother. Piper, who had his original death sentence overturned by the South Dakota Supreme Court, was sentence to death once again last July.

Charles Rhines has been on death row longer. He's there for the 1992 stabbing death of his former co-worker in a Rapid City donut shop. The death happened during a robbery attempt.

But the longest resident on death row in South Dakota is Donald Moeller. Moeller raped and killed nine-year-old Becky O'Connell in 1990. Two years later, Moeller was convicted of the crime and was sentenced to die.

The state Supreme Court overturned that conviction saying the original trial wasn't fair. The verdict and sentence was the same the following year.

Moeller has been filing appeals ever since. He has just a few more appeals possible, including to the United State Supreme Court.

The amount of time the newest residents spend on death row is partly in their hands. Appeals lengthen the process, while waiving those rights could bring the lethal injection much sooner. However, every death sentence is reviewed by the South Dakota Supreme Court.

While Moeller has been on death row for more than 20 years, the process can be much quicker. Elijah Page was executed in 2007, just seven years after his involvement in the killing of Chester Allan Poage. Page voluntarily ended his appeals.
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