This story has been updated with reaction from the state attorney general.
PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A South Dakota prison inmate convicted of second-degree murder by a Minnehaha County jury in 1998 for strangling his cellmate to death has again challenged his lifetime sentence, and the South Dakota Supreme Court has again turned him down.
The state’s high court publicly issued a unanimous opinion Thursday rejecting David A. Lee’s second petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
The decision was praised by South Dakota’s top elected prosecutor.
“Twenty-five years of litigation is too long for a victim’s family and those involved in the litigation,” state Attorney General Marty Jackley said in a statement issued from his office. “Thank you to the court system, prosecutors and investigators that worked on this case for more than two decades.”
The Library of Congress defines the concept of habeas corpus as “the right to challenge the legality of their arrest or detention through a judicial inquiry.”
Lee repeated all of the arguments he had previously made in his first habeas corpus petition and claimed that he wasn’t effectively represented during it, because his attorney failed to seek a certificate of probable cause to appeal Circuit Judge Gene Paul Kean’s denial of the petition.
Justice Scott Myren wrote the opinion in Lee’s latest case. Justice Myren noted that the South Dakota Constitution doesn’t include a constitutional right to effective assistance of habeas counsel but state law provides a statutory right that lists the possible circumstances.
Wrote the justice, “Lee had no right to appeal Judge Kean’s decision absent a certificate of
probable cause issued by the habeas court or a member of the Supreme Court. SDCL 21-27-18.1. And he had no right to a certificate of probable cause. Even if his habeas counsel was ineffective, it did not deprive Lee of any constitutional or statutory right which may be vindicated in a habeas corpus proceeding.”
Lee was found guilty of killing Robert Walth while Lee was already serving sentences for first-degree robbery and aggravated assault.