SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Four more cases, including two involving people sentenced to prison for killing someone in Sioux Falls, were heard by the South Dakota Supreme Court at the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center on the campus of South Dakota State University.  

The final case involved T. Denny Sanford and the release of search warrants from a concluded investigation.

KELOLAND News livestreamed three cases on Thursday. You can watch the recap of the cases below. Technical difficulties interrupted the Implicated Individual case. Jon Arneson, representing the Argus Leader, had his testimony interrupted during the livestream, but it has been uploaded separately and can be found below.

The members of the South Dakota’s Supreme Court are Chief Justice Steven Jensen, Janine Kern, Mark Salter, Patricia DeVaney and Scott Myren. Lawyers for each side of the case will appear in front of the court to emphasize points of the case and respond to questions from the court. 

State v. Smith 

The first case heard Thursday involves Ramon Smith, who was convicted of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and aggravated assault from a June 2019 shooting in the 100 block of North Cliff Avenue in Sioux Falls. 

Smith shot three people, killing Larry Carr, and fled the area after the shooting but was later arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke reported in Jan. 2022 Carr’s family forgave Smith for his deadly actions. While Smith was awaiting trial, the South Dakota Legislature passed a Stand Your Ground law for statutory immunity when the use of force is justified under South Dakota law. Part of Smith’s appeal asks if the circuit court erred by now allowing Smith a statutory immunity hearing and not granting a motion to dismiss based on statutory immunity. 

Ahead of the trial, Smith and the State agreed to not allow witnesses to testify about Smith’s prior time spent in the Minnesota prison system. Then during Smith’s trial, Smith’s sister’s girlfriend, Christina, explained Smith had just been released from prison. 

The court instructed the jury to disregard her testimony and denied Smith’s motion for a mistrial. 

Testimony was allowed to point out Smith was prohibited by state law from carrying a firearm, regardless of the reasonableness of self-defense claim. 

Attorney Manuel J. De Castro Jr. is representing Smith, while South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley and Assistant Attorney General Stephen Gemar are representing the state. 

De Castro Jr. said Smith was scared and didn’t know what to do because he didn’t know the people who had shown up and sent threats on snapchat. Smith grabbed his sister’s gun, went outside and shot one of the victims who charged at him. 

De Castro Jr. said the case was tried after South Dakota’s Stand Your Ground law was signed into law and took effect. Judge Zell found that claim retroactive and did not grant a statutory immunity hearing.

“For years, we’ve had lawful self-defense in South Dakota,” De Castro Jr. said. “The only thing that changed was there’s a mechanism for the defense to say statutory immunity applies.”

Gemar said this a murder case that started on June 8, 2019 and said the immunity carries parts that aren’t tied to criminal acts. 

He cited a previous court case that stated that statutory immunity is a substantial right.

“He was given his trial, argued self-defense and they found him guilty,” Gemar said about Smith’s claims.

Justices asked about “unlawful possession of a firearm” and how it works in regards to self defense. 

Gemar said there was plenty of other evidence the jury could have used even if the testimony against unlawful possession of a firearm wasn’t included.

“The state had to prove four elements beyond reasonable doubt,” Gemar said. “Within four seconds, pulled out a pistol and shot at a group of people who were unarmed.” 

In rebuttal, De Castro Jr. said the evidence of the unlawful possession of a firearm should not have been part of the trial. 

“The jury would have just talked about if this was a lawful killing or unlawful killing,” De Castro Jr. said. “I don’t think the court could unring the bell here.”

State v. Banks 

This case involves Raymond Banks, who along with Jahennessy Bryant, agreed to a plea agreement for the killing of Casey Bonhorst, who was working as a pizza delivery driver for Domino’s Pizza in February 2020.  

Both Banks and Bryant have conflicting stories on what happened and who was the shooter in the crime. Three days before sentencing, Banks joked about getting a slice of pizza tear-drop tattoo on his body.

Before the sentencing hearing, Banks wanted to offer testimony from a polygraph examiner as mitigating evidence. Banks is appealing if the circuit court abused its discretion by not allowing the polygraph evidence to be introduced at his sentencing hearing. 

Kristi Jones and Manuel De Castro Jr. are the attorneys for Banks, while Jackley and Paul Swedlund, solicitor general, are representing the State. 

Jones said the trial court made an error to not allow Banks’ polygraph test. 

“Who actually shot the gun is still in dispute,” Jones said. “The entire theory of the case remained Bryant was the shooter and Banks was the backup.” 

Jones said Bryant made a deal for a shorter prison sentence and both defendants pled to the same manslaughter sentence.

Justice Kern asked if technology has evolved to not allow polygraph tests. 

Jones said if there was a trial, there wouldn’t have been a request for the polygraph but a sentencing hearing is different than a trial. She said the judge could have weighed the polygraph test and ignored it, but the judge should have still considered it as evidence.

Swedlund said the state Supreme Court has already ruled polygraph tests are unreliable and pointed out Banks’ doesn’t argue the unreliable point. 

“That doesn’t make sentencing and evidence free-for-all,” Swedlund said. “Banks’ polygraph evidence is irrelevant because it doesn’t matter who the shooter is.” 

Swedlund said a “cozy polygraph” is quoted in a previous court ruling as giving “dubious value.”

Swedlund said Banks’ attitude, like bragging about a pizza tear-drop tattoo, played a role in why he was sentenced differently than Bryant.

In rebuttal, Jones was asked about the dangerous precedent allowing the other evidence like a polygraph test in a sentencing hearing. Jones said the court could weigh evidence like that all the time. 

“The state put in unqualified statements,” Jones said. “We trust judges to be that filter.”

Implicated Individual 

The final case the court will hear oral arguments on involves the criminal investigation into philanthropist T. Denny Sanford for child pornography. Sanford was never charged and his lawyers want the court to keep search warrants and other documents from the investigation sealed. 

The documents are in a single file in the Minnehaha County Clerk of Court’s office and ProPublica and the Argus Leader have filed requests to unseal the files. The State would not allow the documents to be unsealed until after the investigation was over but the state has filed notice its investigation is completed. 

Sanford is appealing the circuit court erred in not allowing Sanford to inspect the affidavits prior to their unsealing so he may invoke his rights regarding state law defining requests to prohibit public access to information in court records.  

Stacy Hegge is the lawyer representing Sanford, while Jeff Beck is representing ProPublica, Jon Arneson is representing the Argus Leader and Paul Swedlund is representing the State. 

Justice Salter recused himself from the Sanford case and former Chief Justice David Gilbertson sat on the court in replace of him. 

Hegge said the press doesn’t have standing, representing the public, in the case and only Sanford and State should have standing to see the search warrants. Hegge said the redacted search warrants were agreed upon by a previous ruling in front of the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Jensen asked what’s the purpose of redaction of the affidavits. Hegge said a party may redact information that’s not public to keep it confidential. 

Justice DeVaney said the press had an interest in the matter and said the circuit was concerned about how that would work by just allowing the client having sole access. 

“We’re not an interested party. We’re the actual point of this statue,” Hegge said. “We have that right to make that request to redact the information. It can’t just be the general public as an interested party,”

Chief Justice Jensen asked if there’s ever been an argument about the standing issue until now throughout this case. Jensen called it a last-second request for redaction. 

Hegge said it wasn’t a last-second request because the document had remained sealed until the state gave noticed about a completed investigation.

Swedlund said the state isn’t looking to swallow the rule on public access. He said the main regards privacy and what standard should be met to see the workings of law enforcement. 

Beck, representing ProPublica, said Sanford and his lawyers were given notice about the request for the search warrants and state law is clear about those documents and the underlying documents are public. 

“They’re asking for a special sneak peek,” Beck said. “We’re not asking the court to craft redactions.” 

Jon Arneson, representing the Argus Leader, said the first ruling by the court answers a lot of questions. Arneson’s testimony was interrupted during the livestream but has been added separately below.

In rebuttal, Hegge said the circuit abused its discretion. 

“You have to watch others redact information,” Hegge said. “My client has the right to redact conformational information and to see that document first.” 

What to know about South Dakota’s Supreme Court 

The five members of South Dakota’s Supreme Court are appointed by the governor from judicial districts and the picks are subject to statewide electoral approval three years after appointment and every eight years after that. 

South Dakota Supreme Court Justices must retire at age 70 and the Supreme Court is final judicial authority on all matters involving the legal and judicial system in South Dakota. 

Kern was appointed in 2014 in District 1, Jensen was appointed in 2017 from District 4, Salter was appointed in 2018 in District 2, DeVaney was appointed in 2019 from District 3 and Myren was appointed in 2021 from District 5. 

The court travels throughout the state to hear oral arguments to give citizens a better opportunity to see and hear how the court functions. The South Dakota Supreme Court allowed both television and still cameras in the Supreme Court in August 2001. 

The South Dakota Supreme Court issues opinions on cases every Wednesday, which are made public on Thursdays.