S.D. Supreme Court tells judge to explain why he committed 17-year-old rapist to DOC custody

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Court Gavel

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Supreme Court has ordered a circuit judge to revisit the case of a 17-year-old who forced a four-year-old to lick his penis.

The justices found that Circuit Judge Matthew Brown committed D.S. to the state Department of Corrections for first-degree rape without considering whether other viable alternatives were available in the community.

State law allows a judge to send a child to the Department of Corrections only under certain conditions. Chief Justice Steven Jensen wrote the opinion that the Supreme Court publicly released Thursday.

The chief justice stated the circuit judge didn’t discuss alternatives to DOC placement. “It may well be that the (circuit) court’s determination that there were no viable alternatives short of DOC commitment is supportable, but without understanding the court’s assessment of viability given the state of the disposition record, we cannot say this is the case,” Jensen wrote.

The Supreme Court decided the circuit judge should analyze the evidence in the record and explain his findings and conclusions.

“This explanation is essential because written findings that merely recite the necessary criteria for a DOC commitment, without either oral or written explanation, do not facilitate this (Supreme) Court’s meaningful and accurate review for abuse of discretion and clear error,” the chief justice wrote.

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