Death Row Appeal Fails; More Appeals Possible

Jan 17, 2017

Death row inmate Briley Piper
Credit SD Department of Corrections

It has been 17 years since Dottie Poage lost her son to murder. Three men were convicted of killing Chester Poage, and all three men have had different outcomes.

One of them is Briley Piper, waiting on death row in the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, he failed to have his death sentence overturned by a state judge in the Fourth Circuit.

Dottie Poage tells SDPB's Victoria Wicks that she has had to be patient all these years, watching Piper go through years of appeals to avoid execution.

Lawrence County State's Attorney John Fitzgerald: More Appeals Possible

Briley Piper has been on death row in the state penitentiary for 16 years. On Tuesday, Jan. 17, he was denied relief from his death sentence. Piper and two other men murdered Chester Poage in Spearfish Canyon in March 2000.

Piper filed a habeas appeal in the Fourth Circuit, claiming his attorneys gave him insufficient representation. Those claims concern a sentencing trial held in Rapid City in July 2011. The jury there unanimously recommended a sentence of death.

Lawrence County State's Attorney John Fitzgerald says Piper isn't done with appeals.

"The next step is to ask the judge for a certificate of probable cause, which means that the circuit judge would find that there is, at least, an appeal issue that has probable cause," he says. "And based upon that, he would be allowed to appeal it to the South Dakota Supreme Court."

If the state's high court doesn't reverse this decision, Piper can still file claims in federal court.

Piper and co-defendant Elijah Page pleaded guilty to Poage's murder, and both were sentenced to die. Page was executed in July 2007. The other co-defendant, Darrell Hoadley, was tried by a jury who found him guilty but couldn't agree on the death penalty. Hoadley is serving life without possibility of parole.