Piper's Case Back In Supreme Court
by Jeff Rusack, Reporter
March 18, 2013 6:12 PM
For the third time a man's death sentence has made it's way to the South Dakota Supreme Court.
In 2000 Briley Piper was charged with the murder of Chester Allen Poage in spearfish. Piper plead guilty to the charges, but his lawyer feels he wasn't given a clear explanation of his situation before he was sentenced by a judge.
“Why wouldn't we insist that before we kill somebody we give them correct advice,” said Steve Miller.
Briley Piper's crime was heinous.
“Allen Poage was assaulted with a gun, kicked, bound, poisoned with acid, kidnapped,” described the Assistant Attorney General Paul Swedlund.
But, that wasn’t the issue, Tuesday.
The Supreme Court overturned piper's death penalty ruling in 2011. But, he was still sentenced to death after a jury sentencing.
His two accomplices were Elijah Paige and Darrell Hoadley. Paige pleaded guilty and was executed in 2007. Paige, like Piper chose to be sentenced by the court. Hoadley pleaded not guilty and was given a life sentence by a jury.
Piper's attorney says before entering a plea and being given the death penalty, he was given misleading advice. He also said Piper thought if he were to plead guilty he would be sentenced by the court and wouldn't have the right to be sentenced by a jury.
Piper and his attorneys feel this is why he should have been able to change his guilty plea.
“Judge Johnson told him that waiver of a jury was a consequence of his plea. Judge Johnson affirmed what his lawyers had told him,” stated Miller.
“Statutory warnings are given to Piper as they were, then it's not incumbent upon the court to correct defense strategy. The trial court doesn't sit as an arbiter,” said Swedlund.
But, the state feels Piper received a clear explanation of his situation.
“Do you want to proceed with court sentencing? The court offered him a jury sentencing immediately before they commenced the sentencing. This put Piper on notice,” said Miller.
South Dakota's high court hears Piper's case again, with his attorney’s hoping for a new trial.
A decision won't be made for another couple of months.