South Dakota's 2013 Legislative Session gets underway Tuesday and the bills are already stacking up, including a handful connected to some high-profile crimes.
The South Dakota Attorney General's Office has filed several bills ahead of the session, and many of them are linked to cases from 2012.
South Dakota executed two inmates last year: Donald Moeller and Eric Robert. In both cases, the name of the person who administered the lethal injection was kept confidential because of state law. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley wants to keep the identity of the lethal injection drug providers confidential as well, and he’s filed Senate Bill 36 to do just that.
Court filings from Moeller's appeal name several drug providers. Jackley said in a letter filed in that case in federal court last April that pressure on those companies from death penalty opponents has caused some companies to stop making the drugs, leading to a shortage, which also impacts anesthesiologists who use the drugs in lower doses.
The Attorney General's Office has also filed a Senate Bill 38 that would make the penalties harsher for correctional officers who perform sexual acts with juvenile inmates.
That bill is being proposed after police arrested former Sioux Falls Storm football player Lorenzo Brown six months ago. He's accused of having a sexual relationship with a teenage girl at the Minnehaha County Juvenile Detention Center while he worked there. Brown has pleaded guilty to one count of ‘Sexual Acts Between Jail Employees and Detainees,’ which carries a maximum punishment of two years in prison. Jackley says because of that case, and in the interest of protecting juveniles in state custody, he wants to increase the maximum penalty to 10 years.
Finally, a third proposal deals with life sentences for juveniles.
One example is the case of 16-year-old Braiden McCahren, who is charged with first-degree murder for the death of his friend in his Pierre home. If he's found guilty, state law says he must receive a life sentence or the death penalty, but Jackley wants to change that.
That's because a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling said mandatory life sentences are not allowed in juvenile cases.
Jackley is proposing in Senate Bill 39 that South Dakota judges conduct a pre-sentencing hearing, similar to a death penalty hearing, to determine if the child should face life in prison or a shorter sentence.
Those three bills are filed in the Senate and will likely be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee within the next few weeks.