South Dakota lawmaker wants to dial back South Dakota’s death penalty law

February 3, 2021

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – A judge-turned-lawmaker is urging colleagues in the South Dakota Senate to abolish the state’s death penalty for almost all crimes, recalling that one of the most difficult actions he took during his career on the bench was sentencing a man to die.

Republican Arthur Rusch of Vermillion (pictured) presented his case for a bill that would allow the death penalty only in cases when a law enforcement officer or firefighter is killed.

The South Dakota Catholic Conference and some conservative lawmakers are supporting the bill. But some fellow Republicans, prosecutors and a murder victim’s family are actively opposing it.

A Senate committee of seven Republicans will decide Thursday whether the bill will get a vote in the full chamber.